Madelein Mkunu, President of Leading Business Women of Africa, looks at the challenges that hinder women from engaging in the infrastructure development sector better, and outlines a range of recommendations to address them.
In recent years, the African region has experienced a vigorous surge of women involvement in primary infrastructure sectors which include, but are not limited to construction, transportation, science, information and communication technology, energy, oil, gas and mining. As such the promotion of women involved in infrastructure development should remain an important priority for African leaders as well as global stakeholders.
There is an ever growing acknowledgement of the importance to engage women as stakeholders and integral role-players in the infrastructure development of Africa as they seek to be at the forefront of driving the economic growth in Africa. Women across the continent continue to actively mobilize like-minded leaders and businesswomen to find collective ways that encourages, promotes and communicates the need for extensive participation in the process of re-building Africa through creating platforms for trade missions, workshop and channels for accessing relevant information on developments relating to designing and planning infrastructure projects and in turn seek timeous inclusion in relevant information from such organization as PIDA, AUC and NEPAD.
Women acknowledge more than ever the importance to engage with all stakeholders at public and private sectors in lieu of being considered and consulted with as integral role-players in the economic development of Africa. While robustly lobbying for urgent interventions, women are fully aware that this is a lengthy process. They are however, confident that hard work on their part, proactive thinking, accompanied by dedicated political will from decision makers, can make this process possible and speedy.
Integrating women of infrastructure projects
Across Africa, women are mobilizing themselves to find ways to ensure their active and massive participation in the process of rebuilding Africa through designing and planning infrastructure projects in Africa. It is critically important that women’s interests, views and full participation in the designing and planning of infrastructure development be taken seriously not only by African governments but as well as all partners for development. The presence of multiple women’s construction, engineering, and IT companies proudly led by women themselves prove that women of Africa are capable of playing a positive role in the process of establishing a solid and sustainable win-win collaboration with other stakeholders. There are even over growing confirmations that integrating women into the mainstream economy will contribute in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa in years to come as part of post MDGs strategy.
Why women in infrastructure now?
- Infrastructure development and sustainability is on the top of Africa’s agenda now and beyond
- Infrastructure development is a multi-billion dollar industry that is rapidly growing, pivotal to Africa’s long-term prosperity
- Infrastructure is a ‘mine’ for various sustainable opportunities
- Involvement of women in the infrastructure development sector offers a long awaited opportunity of correcting and balancing the inequitable distribution of wealth and opportunities between men and women that existed in the past
- Women need to be present where lucrative opportunities are shared to close the gap on existing women inequality.
Creating win-win partnership with women
There is an outcry to appeal to African Governments and African partners for development, to invite women as key stakeholders in the process of development of Africa. Women investors and entrepreneurs across Africa are ready to partner with development stakeholders on a win-win basis terms. With this in mind, women are appealing to Governments, corporate companies, African partners for Development, to ensure that women have access to economic resources and opportunities at the same rate as their male counterparts.
An active participation of women in planning and design of infrastructure projects in Africa will require that some priorities be taken into consideration. These include:
- Policy and decision makers to reach an early understanding and adoption of deliberate affirmative action provisions into systems that facilitate opportunities in the infrastructure sectors.
- Women inclusion in infrastructure projects: Deliberate requirement need to be made for any large company bidding for major infrastructural projects to include women owned companies as partners and investors,
- Access to business finance: Corporate, public and Commercial financiers be identified that might support and facilitate women investors and entrepreneurs access to business finance. Commitment should be made to assist serious, committed women to access the necessary capital for investment in viable projects.
- Access to infrastructure Development skills: Invite partners for development to invest in women through the creation of Infrastructural Skills Transfer Programs, to provide training and skills transfer to women in Africa.
- Women’s integration in the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), program created by the African Union.