Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says he is determined to double down on efforts to back women entrepreneurs in Africa.
Speaking at the online Africa Business Forum, hosted by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), he insisted that “our girls are equal in every single manner to our boys” and was committed to “work together not only in Kenya but across the continent, to ensure that women are able to take their rightful place in society.”
Asked whether he considered himself a feminist, the President responded positively saying “women have the same capacity, if not greater capacity, than their male counterparts.” He went on to commit himself “both as President and a politician, to do everything I can to ensure that the women in our country get the same, if not more opportunity than their male counterparts.”
In a dynamic and rare ninety-minute session with four young African entrepreneurs, President Kenyatta fielded a range of direct questions about the future of technology in Africa and Kenya’s leadership role on the continent.
ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, appealed for increased efforts to lower the gender gap, where she explained that only “15.2 percent of innovation and businesses in the ICT sector is being done by women,” and as a result, “they need a lot of funding.”
She commended the creation of the African Women’s Leadership Investment Fund saying, “through this fund we can see more investment and support more women.”
President Kenyatta stressed the need to develop financial products to allow women to access capital in a way that “they are not charged exorbitant interest rates.” He added Kenya will pursue policies “that will allow women and young people to rightfully take up their place as partners in development, and as partners in the future of the African continent.”
Asked about the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), he passionately described himself as “an advocate of the African continent” saying the more open countries are, the more opportunities were created. He acknowledged work needed to be done on common infrastructure, common standards, harmonisation of tariffs and easier communication between African states.
The ACFTA came into existence in January 2021. It offers African businesses and investors the ability to conduct 97 percent of their trade, tariff free. It will create a combined GDP of over $2 trillion in an area that includes over a billion people.
Learn More: UNECA