Replacing gender prejudice with financial prudence
When a panel of female, African leaders sat down with us in March 2022 to unpack the theme “break the bias”, we in the audience were in for a treat. Faith Adesemowo, CEO of Nigerian fintech Social Lender, and fellow panelists banking veterans Babalwa Nonkenge and Rina Hicks, and budgeting guru Pamela Abonyo gave proof that Africa is raising (to borrow Faith’s words) superwomen.
In their individual spaces of influence, these women are at the forefront of driving change, and how we need it. Even with reforms such as universal education and the right to work, Africa still has low labor participation across the continent as women are disproportionately outnumbered in both the private and public sectors.
The cost is tremendous. A 2015 study conducted by McKinsey & Company estimated that 26% of the global GDP ($28 trillion) could be generated if a “full-potential” scenario whereby women fully participated in the economy was realized. At the grassroots, women are increasingly joint or sole breadwinners of the family. The cost of bias and exclusion mounts up, not by one but in multiples.
Emerging out of the peaks of COVID, which in many ways exacerbated economic insecurity, and saw a rise in gender-based violence; the narrative shift offered by the panelists including the internet of things, reminded us that many of the solutions exist within the problem.
One of COVID’s silver linings, Rina singled out, was the accessibility and convenience of investing in government securities via mobile devices, which today offer a passive, albeit gradual generation of wealth.
Babalwa, hinted at the opportunities in our traditions, recommending the revival of structures like umgalelo, a traditional saving scheme in South Africa which if brought to life with a modern twist, has the potential to overturn stereotypes of ‘poor saving in Africa’ and foster the accumulation of wealth within our communities.
And it’s not just savings, where African marriage systems have been culprits for promoting dependency, there too lies an opportunity to have an inclusive and sober conversation.
“We at the generation of mothers should first advise at things like the marriage regimes... If we can teach our girls the ability to negotiate and highlight the pros and cons of marriages in community of property, then we are actually securing, not just their futures but that of their children.” said Babalwa.
Ultimately though, these conversations can only bear fruit when those partaking are financially literate. Pamela made the case for meaningful financial literacy.
“You might go to school, but you are not financially literate. We need to have purposeful financial literacy for young girls and women. In Uganda by 18, I could run a household. I wish by 18 I could run proper finances and know how to invest.”
According to Faith “one of the things we can do as women is to read up. It's time to start taking an active interest in what the world is saying today about interest and savings.”
If you missed it or wish to watch it again, the Women, Money and Wealth Fireside Chat is up on YouTube.