CAPE TOWN – Spiralling levels of violence against women in Africa require immediate action from governments and businesses, including tangible measures to create safe spaces.
This is according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa Report, which stated that the business community should also step up to the plate by backing a gender-based fund to address the deep-rooted problems behind physical and sexual assaults.
As the world enters the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) Africa seeks to forge a new path towards societal and economic growth, reads the report in part.
One of the top outcomes of the meeting was the launch of an action plan aimed at tackling the crisis of gender-based violence. The plan is backed by the South African government through the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities and the United Nations in South Africa.
The executive director of African Monitor Namhla Mniki-Mangaliso urged technology companies to take a lead in delivering solutions. “It would take a click of a finger for a tech company to say we are going to deploy software that can assist us with an emergency response system for poor women in South Africa free of charge.”
African Monitor said in a statement on Tuesday that it was pleased that WEF on Africa had adopted an action plan to focus on the fight against gender-based violence in South Africa.
Mniki-Mangaliso, who led discussions on Innovation for the sustainable development goals, made a call for urgent intervention through WEF to step up the fight against gender-based violence.
“We cannot continue with business as usual, as if it is possible to discuss ease of doing business in South Africa when half the population is frozen in fear. The business community must take urgent action to deploy technology and resources to fight this scourge,” said Mniki-Mangaliso.
Hafsat Abiola-Costello, president and chief executive of the Women in Africa Initiative, said the failure to protect women was not just a moral issue, it also came with a high economic cost.
“Who drives African communities? It’s our women. Our women can drive Africa’s development if given the chance if protected if their rights are respected,” said Abiola-Costello. “Africa missed the first industrial revolution, we missed the second, we missed the third. If we don’t address this issue, we will miss the fourth.”
Mastercard also put the spotlight on gender diversity and female entrepreneurship at WEF on Africa during its “Together We Lead” event. Discussions focused on challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Africa, and the role of technology in helping drive inclusive growth in the age of 4IR.
Gender inequality has been found to be costly on a macro level. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that failure to integrate women into national economies costs sub-Saharan Africa countries a combined $95 billion (R1.4 trillion) in lost productivity every year.
READ FULL 28TH WEF ON AFRICA REPORT: