What it will take to make gender equality in agribusiness the new norm

AGRF 2020

September 6th, 2019

According to recent studies, there are more women entrepreneurs than men entrepreneurs. However, women’s businesses are not generating as much profit as men’s due to pervasive gender gaps in policy, business training and financial resources. 

In line with this year’s theme, “Grow Digital: Leveraging Digital Transformation to Drive Sustainable Food Systems in Africa,” discussions around supporting women entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector took center stage.

Based on new evidence presented by Leesa Shrader, Director of the AgriFin Accelerate Programme, Mercy Corps, profits are 34 percent lower for women businesses. Not just that, they also have limited access to finance. However, Ms. Edith Wheatland CEO, Rockland farmers is one poultry famer who, after considering some of these challenges decided to develop a funding facility that works.

“What I started doing was cutting deals with the producers, and that way I was able to make some profit after selling. This helped me to save and also handle some bills. I did a lot of research, and developed a facility without having to go to the banks for help.”

Talash Huijbers is another young female entrepreneur, who was able to develop Inspectro, a company that is breeding insects to feed both animals and humans as an alternative source of protein. “I was able to launch and start my business with a lot of favors, 200sqm and $500,” she said.

Women can end hunger in Africa by 2025 if gender inequalities in production and post harvest loss meet the right margin. This is why more deliberate efforts are needed in closing profit and gender gaps by providing better access to not just finance, but also labour equipment. Also, while time may be precious to women in particular, they have remained very productive and have grown to become careful strivers.  

“One challenge for instance is seen on market days and other instances where they don’t hear about certain services because they are home or carrying out other chores. This constitutes a problem in terms of accessing the information they need to grow their businesses,” Shrader explained.

Trust is another very important factor for women. Once they are able to build better relationships, they also felt more confident about doing business in bigger markets alongside their male counterparts. In countries like Kenya, the farmers fall under different categories such as the careful strivers, disciplined pragmatics and the educated planners who also happen to be very tech savvy.

To increase the amount of women who use digital solutions and financial solutions, various organizations have continued to invest in more training programmes and innovations that are very practical. According to GSMA reaching women is the biggest untapped market in Africa. 

Michael O’Sullivan who is an economist at the World Bank’s Africa gender innovation lab also highlighted some important points. 14 percent of women in Ghana would say they are good leaders. He started by emphasizing the need to train women to think and act like entrepreneurs. “They also require secure savings mechanisms, large cash grants and coaching and training which then addresses labour.”

Women remain clustered in lower level trade often because they don’t know any better, but all of that needs to change. It starts with making gender equality the new normal, and bringing key leaders closer to the problem so that these challenges can be tackled. 

In conclusion, some of the other solutions that were discussed include mentorship, more valuable partnerships, and strategies that would encourage women to start trading at the higher levels.