Why A Women's Coalition For Good Governance In Africa Matters?

series: governance for african enterprises Apr 15, 2021

Nearly thirty years ago, I cycled 14,500 kilometres through 17 African countries over 18 months, adventures I wrote about in my book Esprit de Battuta. Yes, I know it was mad, but it brought adventures and encounters that changed my life. Throughout my solo ride, I observed the hard, relentless, back-breaking work of village women, learnt about their farming and parental responsibilities in a polygamous household unmatched by assets, rights or power. I did not speak directly to as many village women as I would have liked as most were not educated in their national language. Like this, their “voices” were inhibited.

It frustrates me that three decades later there has been insufficient progress for women and girls in the villages.

But educated women in Nigeria, across the African continent and throughout the globe are joining boards, becoming entrepreneurs, being staked on by investors, and are influential professionals and political leaders. We are finding our voice and with it we are taking our power not just for ourselves but to help women at all levels of society too. 

I believe it is now the time to find our voices and build our influence to reshape African governance. In the last months of 2020, I spoke with female senior executives, leaders and entrepreneurs in the private and public sector in Nigeria, asking them – amongst other things - how a coalition of women game changers can contribute to a more open, transparent and fairer business environment and society. I heard they believe it is time to mobilise too.[1]

Here’s some words said to me:

“Now I foundationally believe that you have to be the change you’re seeking to see. If you have a number of people coming together believing they have to be the change they’re seeking to see, it starts to permeate.”

“There’s so much going on to create the relevant credible platforms for women to consistently find your way into boardrooms. And so, if we are having these types of conversations, then we (can) align it with the conversation around good governance, because the success of any Board is hinged on good governance practices. So, it’s just a good time to have the joint conversation.”

“I think it will bring out a lot of stories and a lot of people would like to do something different(ly). And to do it a new way, especially the younger people, who may be staying out of business. But if the environment changed, the economy would be boosted.

“It takes time, but in creating a group who is discussing it (good governance), it definitely starts to seed people’s willingness to speak up.”

“It’s about just giving people a chance to actually believe that change is possible…I am quietly confident we can make this work.”

Some reservations were voiced too:

“So, if I'm going to subscribe to a coalition like this, I need to feel…it's not just one of those (initiatives) again, that we're doing, and everybody wants to list their names and put it on the resume.”

“I feel like a lot of times we women come into different groups, which has a good tagline, a good vision, but we are too into our self-agenda.”

“And if I'm going to get involved, or subscribe to it, it has to be true.”

Let’s make a coalition of women game changing governance in Africa matter by making it “true”. Join the Butterfly Coalition and help shape our direction and the direction of Africa and African business.

[1] All comments quoted in this report are words of 9 interviewees, senior women business leaders, executives, professionals and entrepreneurs operating in Nigeria. Research was conducted by Pamela Watson, Smart Ventures in Africa in collaboration with Olatowun Candide-Johnson, GAIA Africa in Q4, 2020. 76 women responded to online survey, 9 in depth, 1 hour interviews were carried out.

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