Africa would need another 142 years to achieve gender equality

The disparity could cost the continent nearly US$700 billion by 2025

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Wednesday 27 November 2019

Women account for more than 50 per cent of Africa’s combined population. Yet they contributed to only 33 per cent of the continent’s collective GDP in 2018.  This is due to poor progress on gender equality in the region since 2015, says a recent McKinsey report.

The gender parity score (GPS) of the continent has remained stagnant since 2015 at 0.58, indicating high gender disparity between 2015 and 2019. The score assigned by Mckinsey gender index is based on 15 indicators of progress covering four aspects—gender equality at work, society, legal protection, and political voice, and physical security and autonomy.

At the current pace, the continent would need close to 142 years to achieve gender equality, says the report.

The continent will add US$316 billion or 10 per cent of its current GDP by 2025 if it plans to continue without improving gender disparity. In contrast, if Africa fixes the gap in the labour market, the continent could add $1 trillion to its collective GDP by 2025.

South Africa has the highest GPS at 0.76, indicating medium gender inequality. Mauritania, Mali, and Niger have the lowest scores at 0.46, 0.46, and 0.45 respectively, which highlight extremely high gender inequality.

Africa’s female labour-participation rate of 0.76 (medium gender inequality) is close to the global average of 0.64 (high gender inequality) says the report.  But, Algeria, Mali and Burkina Faso are amongst the 14 countries that are most unfair to women at work. These countries have a considerable distance to travel to achieve gender equality at work 

While Africa’s female participation in the labour force is roughly on a par with that of China, Europe and North America, the continent has one of the lowest women representations in the formal economy. 32 out of the 39 African countries in the report also rank low on legal protection and political voice to the women. 

Low education and limited access to financial services and digital technologies to women are the major reasons behind the gender gap. Africa has a female-to-male ratio of 0.76 on the level of women’s education, the lowest GPS of any region in the world.

Thirty African countries lag behind the global average on education level. Angola and Burkina Faso are so far behind that on the current trajectory that reaching gender parity on education could take 50 to 100 years. In Sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than 90 girls are enrolled for every 100 boys at the lower secondary level, and that number drops to less than 85 at the upper secondary level. Africa’s overall GPS on financial inclusion is also considerably lower than the global average of 0.75.

The report lauds Rwanda and South Africa for increasing women’s representation in middle-management roles by 27 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. While Algeria has cut maternal mortality rates by about 9 per cent, Guinea and Liberia have doubled their scores on legal protection of women.

Gender equality is one of 17 global goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With just 10 years left to achieve gender equality by the UN’s target of 2030, the report is an urgent call for empowering women through effective policy interventions.



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