In Africa - a continent which seeks to join the ranks of emerging powers - there is a great need for innovative, targeted initiatives as well as concerted efforts to make sure those initiatives create long-lasting impacts. Our continent needs to use an approach combining innovation and integration.
As part of its development process, Africa is called upon to leverage all its assets and resources - particularly its intangible capital - and to develop its human resources, especially highly qualified African women.
We should keep in mind, in this regard, that luck plays no part in African women’s achievements. They are, in fact, the result of outstanding academic achievement and of an ever-growing participation in the job market – a situation which offers greater options in terms of life choices. All of this has led to a more effective presence of African women in the political, economic and social fields.
Despite the significant improvement in women’s conditions in Africa, it must be admitted that there is still a long way to go. Indeed, further efforts are required to promote women's participation in development and decision-making in order to make the most of their ever-growing role as entrepreneurs and business leaders on the continent. Needless to say, in this regard, the government, the private sector and civil society all have a crucial part to play in consolidating the leading role of women as key drivers of development.
No country, economy, business or society can tackle today’s challenges, nor ensure optimal use of its resources and energies, without the full involvement of women. Therefore, measures aimed at achieving gender equality should be the cornerstone of any viable sustainable development strategy. This firmly-held belief is at the heart of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the related 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This question also tops the concerns of African countries. Within the African Union, there is a principled, undying commitment to gender equality. This was clearly stated at the AU Summit meeting in January 2018, during which it was indicated that equality between men and women in all walks of life is an objective which should be achieved by 2025.
In the same vein, and given the injustice African women are still suffering from on the ground, we are all duty-bound to work to promote women’s roles and make African women a central element in national plans for social and economic development, thereby strengthening their leading role in society.
Efforts should be made to ensure women - especially those from disadvantaged background - can benefit from innovative financing mechanisms and to facilitate their access to safe, sustainable technology. Similarly, platforms for consultation and decision-making should be set up at the local and national levels, using a participatory approach.
Almighty God has honored human beings. Islam emphasizes equality between men and women since it considers women as “shaqaa’qu arrijaal”, meaning the sisters or allies of men in terms of judgments (ahkaam). Similarly, the universal values of humankind and international charters provide for gender equality, without any discrimination.
Any obstacle to the empowerment of women is in itself a stumbling block impeding the continent’s development. African women should not pay the price for the many structural challenges facing our continent. Quite the contrary, they should be frontline players in building resilient societies that can adapt to change and to new developments.
Africa needs women leaders. It needs the energies, skills and competence of all women, be they managers, business leaders or social actors. African women should be able to help change the situation prevailing in their respective countries and to harness their tremendous potential for the emergence of a strong, united Africa that confidently and resolutely moves forward in its quest for a better future.
Needless to say, this is the essence of the lofty mission championed by the Women in Africa Initiative. I cannot but commend WIA on its constructive efforts to serve African women and pave the way for the next generation of women to hold leading positions.
By HM Mohammed VI
King of Morocco.