Prof. Fatou Sarr, president of African Network for Support to Women's Entrepreneurship (RASEF), Senegal

Prof. Fatou Sarr, president of African Network for Support to Women's Entrepreneurship (RASEF), Senegal

Professor Fatou Sarr Sow is Senior Lecturer at IFAN – University Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, where she directs the Gender and Scientific Research Laboratory that she created in 2004. Prof Sow is also a Gender Expert at United Nations Agencies for Gender Training, Evaluation and Program Development in 15 African Countries.

She is a Knight of the National Order of the Lion. She was nominated as a leading educator in 2008 by FAWE, a title awarded to only ten women educators who contribute to the promotion of education in Africa.


The essential role of private enterprise and the rule of law in rebuilding economies and develop employment

It is only through solidarity and inclusion that we can ensure lasting prosperity. This is why we must question the nature of the companies which are the main creators of wealth and employment in poor countries. In Senegal, 90% of jobs are created by the private sector and 96.4% of jobs in the private sector are informal. The informal private sector must be the priority for our States. COVID-19 has exposed the limits of policies that have favored foreign investors, resulting in a dangerous slowdown in economic activity and the risks of upheaval and instability.

The businesses that interest me are the so-called informal ones, since I run a women's organization in this sector. They are mainly in agricultural production, food processing, catering, clothing, hairdressing, trade, crafts, services. So in the real economy, with COVID-19, some activities have slowed down and many have gone bankrupt. These micro-enterprises are confronted with various problems which are: inappropriate legislation, unfair competition, difficult access to finance, corruption, poor access to technologies.

Regarding legislation, we can say that current law does not sufficiently protect women entrepreneurs. Moreover, the World Bank recognizes that the programs in force do not defend their right to participate in the economy with equal opportunities and equal access to benefits. These women face obstacles in terms of access to employment and they have difficulty in accessing public contracts.

Corruption negatively impacts the private sector in all countries, but more women and especially those in conflict zones as we have seen in the DRC. Indeed, some can see 75% of their profits captured by corrupt agents.

Women face unfair competition. Their products are not protected, they are copied with complete impunity, because the texts on intellectual property do not take their specificities into account.

Lack of adequate funding: they are confined to microcredit with little chance of seeing their business grow.

The future of Africa depends on the place that will be given to women, because there is a link between gender inequalities and economic growth, which is shown by numerous studies carried out by the most credible institutions:

  • UK weekly The Economist, in a 2006 story, says the keys to economic growth lie in women's hands.
  • A McKinsey Global Institute report published in September 2013 says that gender equality generates a direct gain in growth.
  • The OECD, in its report published in 2015, says that economic growth depends (also) on women. Thus, any 50% reduction in the gender gap in terms of participation rate should result in an increase in the growth rate of GDP per capita of 0.3 percentage point and 0.6 points, on the assumption of full convergence by 2030. If as many women as men worked or set up their business, France would gain 0.4% additional annual growth, or 9.4% over 20 years,
  • The IMF, in a report published in February 2015 entitled: Fair Play: More Equal Laws Boost Female Labor Force Participation, shows that greater access for women to the world of work translates into greater economic growth. Conversely, a number of scientific studies have shown that the presence of a significant gender gap in access to the labor market, entrepreneurial activity and education (obviously at detriment of women) can slow down this same growth.
  • INSEE in 2012, showed that gender inequalities are likely to affect economic growth through several channels
  • Human capital: Low investment in the human capital of women restricts the growth potential of the economy.
  • factors of production: If barriers prevent women from working in certain sectors or professions, then the factors are not allocated towards their best productive use: the allocation of resources is inefficient, which again weighs on potential growth.
  • marginal propensities to save: The inability of women to earn an income freely (especially from work), and therefore to save, would particularly slow down the take-off of developing countries.

An inclusive private sector: a condition for sustainable development and prosperity

Africa's future depends on how the issue of women is addressed. This is why public policies must support women 's businesses, which are predominantly in the "informal" sector.

Mohammad Amin, Veselin Kuntchev and Martin Schmidt (2015) who analyzed the relationship between gender inequalities and growth concluded that developing countries are characterized by low standards of living and high gender inequalities. They could both reduce gender inequalities and stimulate their economic growth by implementing policies to combat gender inequalities.


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