Improving Gender Equality in Agriculture across Africa

Across Africa, Agriculture remains the main source of rural employment for both men and women and has long been touted as Africa’s path to renewed economic success and development (if properly managed). However, in order for the Agricultural sector to reach its full potential, women must be fully integrated into the sector, through affirmative action to minimise barriers to entry as well as the creation and enforcement of gender-responsive agricultural policies to empower women to take a seat at the table. Essentially, in order for progress to be meaningful and successful, it must come hand-in-hand with gender equality to ensure that the sector reaches its full potential and that women in farming are given an equitable chance at economic independence.

On average, women make up a little under half of the African agriculture workforce (this percentage, of course, varies by country, by crop, and by various other factors).  However, they bear a disproportionate work burden and are “almost entirely responsible for low earning-low productivity rain-fed agriculture,” which is less likely to be well-paid. In the continental push to embrace high-productivity agriculture, women are—once again—being systematically left behind; a mistake we cannot afford to repeat. The below recommendations for increased female inclusion into the Agricultural sector are not exhaustive—rather serve as key steps to initiate and encourage female participation in order to raise agricultural productivity, help female farmers achieve better economic independence, and ultimately drive national economic growth across the continent.

Women & Land Ownership 

To ensure gender equality in Agriculture, women must first be allowed to own land and able to access it. In several African countries, women are historically prohibited from inheriting and buying land, therefore locked out of ownership of land and of anything land produces. According to the World Economic Forum, women own less than 20% of the world’s land; and to contextualise this, in Nigeria, only 15% of women own land (Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2013). Further, in countries like Morocco, women are only now fighting to gain land ownership rights, and women’s property rights in all respects are not often respected.

In today’s world, as emphasis (and profits) leans on increasing scales of production, it is critical to own and access sizeable land for farming. Therefore, conscious efforts must be made to accommodate women who have historically been the major players in small-scale farming. Thus, ensuring that land is properly documented and that women have equal opportunity and rights to inherit, buy, control, access, and transfer land is the first step to establishing gender equality in Agriculture and in levelling the playing field.


Affirmative Action to Minimise Barriers to Entry

The 2017 UN Women Policy Brief, “Technology for Rural Women in Africa,” reveals that women farmers are 13-25% less productive than their male counterparts across sub-Saharan Africa. This loss in productivity essentially means that African economies forfeit millions of dollars as, for example, the aforementioned reports emphasises: “In the United Republic of Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda, for example, narrowing the gender gap in agricultural productivity has the potential of raising gross domestic product by USD 105 million, USD 100 million, and USD 65 million respectively.

Fundamentally, the reinvestment into Agriculture will not be effective without the full economic integration of women into the sector. From coffee farming in Ethiopia to cash crop farming in Nigeria, women should be systemically granted access to high-productivity farming practices, techniques and resources. Therefore, it is important to employ affirmative action to encourage women to participate in the sector.


Governments and NGOs should take targeted steps to minimise barriers to entry in Agriculture for women by leveraging gender-responsive policies. For example, ensuring that a specified number of women are accepted into standardised training programs from both local and international organisations. While this might seem minimal, women are often systematically excluded from training programs. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), female farmers receive only 5% of agricultural training. These trainings provide key information on labour-saving technology, accessing local and international financing mechanisms, and increasing the scale of production, all of which female farmers can leverage to ensure high productivity and increased profits. Without actively inviting women in, the chances are high that they will remain out. As Amanda Satterly of Technoserve mentioned: “Traditionally when you invite farmers to train and when they hear ‘farmers’ they hear ‘men’ unless you proactively try to reach and train women, they’re invisible.

Targeted Farming to Ensure Productivity

Additionally, to ensure that women are more actively included in high-productivity Agriculture, the government can intentionally include women in its investment areas. For example, governments that plan to invest in high-value cash crop farming should target female farmers (for production, supply and even certification programs, if applicable) to ensure that women are farming crops that will provide them with meaningful income. Typically, this will mean governments would provide financing mechanisms to help female farmers (who are typically smaller-scale) manage specialised production, as well as ensuring their access to (and capacity to use) technologies that will motivate high productivity.


ABOUT Nneoma Nwankwo

Nneoma works in financial services in Canary Wharf, London. She is the founder of Empower46, a news and policy perspectives platform on women’s rights in Africa. To subscribe to Empower46, click here.



Key Takeaways From #SheHiveLondon 2017

I spent my weekend at #SheHiveLondon a professional boot camp for smart, young, African women organised by She Leads Africa – a community created for and by African women. I’ve been part of the SLA community for a while now, receiving the Motherland Mogul Weekly to my inbox which includes career tips (‘How to get that promotion’ ) and inspiring stories of African women in business and entrepreneurship.

I had noticed the #SheHive tour making its rounds across the continent (Lagos, Abuja, Accra, Nairobi, Joburg & Cape Town) and then to Washington DC and Toronto. Once the #SheHive was announced in London I knew I had to get involved. Having been to a lot of similar networking events though, I expected something very typical but regardless looked forward to being surrounded by like-minded women at the very least. Furthermore when I initially looked at the lineup of speakers although impressive, (Afua HirschMinna SalamiEryca Freemantle and more) as someone who isn’t running a business or even have a business idea, I didn’t think that the programme would be entirely relatable or that I would be getting the most out of it.

Well, to cut to the chase my preconceptions were blown out of the water and to me, #SheHive truly set itself apart as a space where African women at whatever stage of their professional lives can thrive, learn and be inspired! After just a few hours, because of the casual and intimate atmosphere the SheHive team created, we became a community where you felt comfortable enough to share plans, ideas, find common interests (and discuss possible collaborations!) and even test out each other’s products (Thank you Anita for the Shea Glo Skincare tester and Bandela Snacks for the groundnut treats!)

Another thing that I absolutely loved was the diversity of women in attendance. Unfortunately, it’s not every day that I get to meet and have conversations with Cameroonian women from Paris, Congolese women from Brussels or Malian and Guinean women. It was great to hear their perspectives and discover our common interests.

I took something away from every single speaker across the weekend, whose talks didn’t feel long or strenuous but enlightening and also very personal.

Although this would only be touching the surface of the many gems and inspiring notes of the last weekend, here were my key takeaways from this year’s SheHive London:

1. What is your why?

This question was echoed throughout the weekend by a few of the speakers in different ways. What is your why? Why do you do what you do? It’s important to be continually self-reflective and to tap into the love and passion that drives us. That being said as Khalia Ismain Founder of Jamii, Emeka and Ifeyinwa Fredrick Founders of Chuku’s urged, “don’t start a businessfor the business sake or because you see others doing it!Only true passion and an understanding of your motivations can drive you through the hardest times. Without this, Mariatu Turay Founder of Gitas Portal said, this would only lead to a “dead end and will never take you to the point of fulfilment.”

2. Be your authentic self

A somewhat cliched statement but one that is so often forgotten. Being authentic and truly understanding oneself underlines your brand, your direction, your decisions and makes you distinct – it’s the only sustainable way to be!

You really have to know yourself and that’s not an instant thing – its a journey.Afua Hirsch

Love of self; you are the best when you are anchored in self.” Mariatu Turay

3. Tell your story

This follows from point no2. Telling your story will allow you to present yourself in the most authentic way. What is specific to you? How did you get here? People relate to people and not things, placing your story and identity behind your brand will allow you to tap into your audience and be memorable.

4. Be a sponge

You have to be continually open to learning whatever stage you are at and regardless of what you have achieved to date. We all laughed when Ifeyinwa recalled being rejected from a waitressing role as she sought hospitality experience for her business Chuku’s, despite being an Oxbridge grad. However, it is that humility and openness to learning that leads to true development. Or as Khalia put it, “stand on the shoulders of giants” and learn from those who have gone before you.

5. It’s a long game

Something that most of the successful entrepreneurs that spoke had in common was their long and often unforeseen journeys. From Afua who is currently on her 4th career as a journalist to Nicole Pretorious, Founder of She Can Code who spoke about leaving her day job without any solid plans. Plainly, success is “a long game” where patience and resilience are key.

 6. Prioritise opportunities

You cannot take on every opportunity that comes your way but you must discern what is best for you at the present timeWhat is right for me? Can I give this 100%? Will this take me to the next level? In determining this, what must underline your decisions is a belief in yourself that great opportunities will always come back around.

7. Take a break

I think every speaker advised on the importance of rest and the reality of burning out. As ambitious women, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to ‘have it all’ without thinking about our health and well being. Sleep, take a holiday, delegate, learn to put some balls down!

8. It’s a lie!

What untruths are you telling yourself? What untruths have you internalised? The mind is a powerful thing. As young African women, there are plenty of untruths society has told us about ourselves – we must begin to unlearn these things and live by positive affirmations about ourselves, our goals and our prospects.

For more key points and highlights have a look at my live tweets! 

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African Women in Tech: Improving Economic Empowerment

Across Africa, women are often the pillars of their families and local communities. According to women in Africa put up to 90% of the money they earn back into their communities and families. Yet as is the case globally, African women still face barriers and an even further limited access to resources than their male counterparts.

Despite this, the continent boasts the highest number of female entrepreneurs relative to other continents and this is continuing to grow rapidly. For example, Nigeria outranks the US and the UK in terms of percentage of entrepreneurs amongst women with a rate of 41% against 10% and 5.7% respectively. And in the likes of Ghana and Zambia, the percentage of female entrepreneurs surpasses 50% of their total pool of entrepreneurs. Of course, the state of Africa’s economies means there are far more limited options for employment for both men and women alike (no truer are the words ‘necessity breeds innovation’ than on the African continent!). However, considering that traditional social norms remain pertinent, it is clear that African women continue to beat even higher odds than their peers in developed economies. Therefore there is a clear window of opportunity for female entrepreneurs to be a key driving force in the continent’s future prosperity if only their potential were to be fully unlocked.

The Transformative Power of Technology

Access to technology could be the key to unlocking this potential as, such tools could be essential for female entrepreneurs in starting, growing a business and overcoming the barriers they face. As we have seen, African women make up around 50% of entrepreneurs on the continent but when it comes to SMEs only 9% are female-led whilst only 10% of tech businesses are run by African women (The World Bank). Given their integral roles within their communities, women are best placed to identify and apply technological tools to solve real problems. Therefore putting technology in the hands of women is likely to breed local solutions for local problems and give birth to indigenous innovation.

“Because women face barriers such as poverty, illiteracy, and discrimination when getting training and education, we are witnessing the rise of a second digital divide. It is important to understand that technology and access to the Internet are essential to women’s empowerment across the continent and it is key to overcoming these barriers in the first place.” Rainatou Sow, Founder of Make Every Woman Count.

Currently, in Africa’s burgeoning, male-dominated tech scene women remain largely underrepresented, despite their obviously strong entrepreneurial nature. How do we begin to engage African women in technology and close this ‘second digital divide?’

Her Future Africa

Organisations such as ATBN – the Africa Technology Business Network, a social enterprise and global network focused on accelerating technology growth and impact in Africa, are taking the lead. I spoke with Founder Eunice Baguma Ball, about how the organisation is supporting African female tech entrepreneurs.

Her Future Africa – Accra, Ghana

The purpose of ATBN, Eunice says is to “to support African tech entrepreneurs by connecting them to the global tech ecosystem (investors and networks), and equipping them with the skills they need to succeed in the industry.” ATBN does this through programmes and events, both on the ground and abroad.

For the purpose of supporting African women in technology, ATBN founded ‘Her Future Africa‘ an entrepreneurship and innovation skills programme for female founders. After noticing the significant underrepresentation of women-led businesses in accelerator programmes across the continent, Her Future Africa was set up to help to fill this gap, “In recent years there have emerged a lot of business accelerator programmes in places like Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya etc which has been great for the startup ecosystem in Africa, but there was always a big gap when it came to the representation of women-led enterprises, women in pitches and programmes. It is not uncommon to find say only 1 in 20 of the startups in these programmes being women-led.”

Her Future Africa held its first programme earlier this year in Accra, Ghana with 32 young women, selected from over 200 applicants from across Africa. The purpose of the programme is to equip young African women with the skills, insights and networks needed to launch high-impact, technology-enabled businesses: “the programme includes tutorials on pitching, project proposals, accessing funding etc – overall creating an environment where they can test and validate their ideas and business models.”


One of the key issues Eunice noticed with the African tech industry and similar programmes was that often, the way they were promoted could exclude women “a lot of the programmes we saw emerging had been modelled on the States/ Silicon Valley where there is a very “bro” culture with things like late evening drinks and high-intensity competitions“, which may not appeal to African women considering most cultural norms and even security concerns, (women alone at night in certain cities is considered extremely dangerous). Eunice went further and identified that even the language used to promote programmes and events were exclusionary, “terminology like ‘pitch battles’ and references to cut-throat competitions may not appeal to female entrepreneurs who often are looking for support, feedback and collaboration. Many did not even feel they even had a viable business yet and just had an idea.

Her Future Africa seeks to change this narrative in the tech startup world and simply asks potential candidates: Are you passionate about a problem you see in your community? and do you have any ideas to help solve this problem?

Eunice says, “it is about being intentional with the language so that people feel included.”

As a result, the programme opened its doors to a wide range of young female entrepreneurs with innovative ideas. Take for instance Edna Mate-cole who came up with the idea for an app called ‘NannyCab‘ when she identified the issue of access to childcare in her community which was holding back local women from working and Ivy Barley who began the programme wanting to start a project to get more African girls and women to pursue careers in STEM  but was not clear on how to go about it. Ivy now has an established business: Developers in Vogue which has gone on to win funding and awards to help kick-start her business.


 “In societies where there is a lot of pushback for women who are go-getters and not the traditional ‘good African woman,” Eunice says, ATBN through Her Future Africa is working to create safe spaces for women to enter the tech world. They are also now creating a book called, Founding Women which will share the stories of African female tech founders from across Africa and the diaspora. The goal is to demystify tech and inspire more young African women to join the sector.


When asked what advice she would offer to women in Africa and within the diaspora who want to get into technology Eunice says “it (tech) is not this exclusive club like the way it sounds, a lot of women are already in tech – they own websites, they represent the majority on social media, they are continually engaging with tech every day. It’s false that you have to be a developer or a coder. Just focus on the problem you want to solve, tech is just the tool for solving that problem.”

It is clear that there exists so much untapped potential for women in Technology on the African continent. Governments and stakeholders need to do more to foster women’s technological development although programmes such as Her Future Africa and many others are making great progress for the cause.

Have you any thoughts as to how African women’s technological development could be fostered? Comment below

             Eunice Baguma Ball – Founder of ATBN

To find out more about the Her Future Africa programme visit