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Executive Reflections August 2021

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

From the desk of Rehema and Lebo

Welcome to the first edition of The Womanomics Times.

The last 19 months commencing January 2020 have been largely described as uncertain, tumultuous, worrying and more recently, exhausting, daunting with pockets of hope – as the Covid19 pandemic wreaks havoc across the globe. In South Africa, August 2021 represents 16 months of varying levels of hard and adjusted lockdowns, limiting movement of people and business operations with the aim of reducing infections. Not surprisingly this curtailing of critical aspects of trade locally has had adverse effects evidenced by what economic data reveals of business closures, increased unemployment rates and a slowdown of economic activity.

What the pandemic further revealed with brutal honesty, is that while we exist in a global village – the rules of engagement are not Ubuntu driven and certainly do not put Africa first. Why should they? Years after independence, we as residents and architects of African economies remain highly dependant on global value chains and have not spent sufficient time developing African ecosystems that are globally competitive, Africa sensitive, resilient and sustainable. The Africa Continental Free Trade Area which came into effect earlier this year initiates in circumstances which challenge the theoretical premise of unity and collaboration, questioning a utopic promise in the guise of yet another Secretariat with a head office. Prevailing geo-political boundaries, beauracratic practices, local agendas and legislative frameworks that limit movement of people, goods and money as well as poor adoption of enabling technologies to bridge the gap, do not build confidence to truly leverage what has been promoted as Africa’s economic stimulus option.

There is a need to do away with the political posturing and paper-pushing and to get on with the realities of on the ground business to business collaboration. During the pandemic, at a time of a health crisis and with an opportunity to expedite the agenda for African collaboration, news reports of self funded African centres of excellence of production and manufacturing (which are some of the key switches to turn on) were glaringly absent. Ask citizens where to find PPE and an Asian source is a likely response. We certainly did well to cement Asia -Africa value chains and networks. During an education slowdown in some countries a leverage of African grown online academic options were muted by the number of global partners offering online courses for free, while the issue of access to education by a continent that is home to the worlds largest youth base remains a topic of discussion and sadly not a reflection of success. The African response has been arguably insular, local and protectionist. If crisis does not spark opportunity for increased engagement, expedited bureaucratic easing, regulatory reform, and facilitated aggregation – what will it take – or rather do we have what it takes?

The world is moving on. The last few months of vaccine rollouts globally have seen the world opening up to movement and trade, while new economic alliances have been forged and will be strengthened. What does inclusion, access and participation in a recalibrated world economy look like? For African women in business, empirical evidence of the impact of historic exclusion of women in economic strategies is telling. In an era of post-pandemic resetting, it is imperative that a post covid response firmly addresses the lagging gender agenda.

The Womanomics Africa™ response to addressing the gender gap has been to leverage technology as an enabler. Womanomics Africa ™ launched its Virtual Campus in June 2021, proudly and aptly hosting the UN Women and the Generation Equality Forum geared at accelerating gender equality by 2026. The Virtual Campus which delivers both a 2D and 3D experience is a world first, leveraging gaming technology and conferencing principles to connect and facilitate access by women to insights, capacity building, opportunities and a community of ecosystem partners unlocking the possibilities inherent in African owned businesses doing more intra Africa trade.

We invite you to join our Campus community, access Womanomics Africa™ and partner experiences as well as engagements.

To the women of South Africa - we wish you a Happy Women's Month!

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