#CSRFW: #PressForProgress: Closing the Gender Gap in Africa


March 8 has been celebrated globally since 1911 as the International Women’s Day. Several countries celebrate it as a day for unity, celebration, reflection, struggles, rights advocacy, action and giving women a voice in a male-dominated world. Moreover, the globally-ratified UN Sustainable Development Goal eight (SDG8) envisions a gender-equal world with all women empowered by 2030.

Over the years, significant progress has been made with closing the gender gap in Africa; especially within the Sub-Sahara. For instance, by 2008, there were 91 girls for every 100 boys in primary school, up from 85 girls in 1999. In Nigeria, the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) End Point Result reveals that the ratio of girls to boys in schools improved even though the proportion of seats occupied by women in National Parliament remained low at 5.11% in 2015 against expected 35%.

In resonating with the theme of this year’s event – Press for Progress, we have collated some facts and information about Africa’s stance towards closing the gender gap, staring the need for further commitment from all sectors and peoples, to attain gender parity on the continent.

Closing Gender Gap

  • The average progress on closing the global gender gap stands at 68.0%—meaning an average gap of 32.0% remains to be closed worldwide in order to achieve universal gender parity. (World Economic Forum, 2017, Global Gender Gap Report).


  • In comparison with Western Europe (25%), North America (28%), Eastern Europe (28%), Central Asia (29%), South Asia (34%) and MENA Region (39%), Sub-Saharan Africa is left with a 32.4% gender gap. (World Economic Forum, 2017, Global Gender Gap Report).


  • At current rate of progress, gender gap can be closed in Sub-Saharan Africa in 102 years. (World Economic Forum, 2017, Global Gender Gap Report).


  • Globally, Rwanda ranks fourth (4th) in progress at closing gender gap and has now closed 82% of its overall gender gap ; making it the first African country to have significantly narrowed gender gap on the continent. (Global Index, World Economic Forum, 2017, Global Gender Gap Report).


  • Nigeria ranks 122 out of 144 countries in the 2017 global index on gender gap, against its 118 ranking in 2016. The country is the 5th least ranked on the continent, just ahead of Angola, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali, and Chad. (Global Index, World Economic Forum, 2017, Global Gender Gap Report).
  • Chad remains the least ranked country (141 of 144) within Sub-Saharan Africa in closing gender gap.


Specifics and Variations across the Continent

  • African women hold 66 percent of the all jobs in the non-agricultural informal sector and only make 70 cents for each dollar made by men and only between 7 and 30 percent of all private firms have a female manager. (UNDP, 2016 Africa Human Development Report).
  • Equality is converging in Labour force participation on the continent although the percentage of women in informal employment is higher than that of men. (ILO, 2016 Women at Work Trends).
  • Women hold 12.7% of board directorships (364 out of 2,865) in 307 listed companies based in 12 African countries. This is 4.6% lower than the 17.3% women’s representation on the boards of the 200 largest companies globally. (AfDB, 2015).
  • Rwanda is the first and only country in the world where more than half of parliamentarians are female and there is a high percentage of women in corporate boards.
  • Namibia’s constitution guarantees equality before the law and the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex. It is one of the few to use gender-neutral language throughout.
  • South Africa has one of the highest gender parity rates in Africa for wage employment, outside agriculture.
  • To increase the productivity of rural women, Malawi has improved women’s access to agricultural training, information, inputs and services.
  • Tanzania has one of the highest rates of female labor force participation in Africa.
  • Mauritius has gradually introduced free education at primary, secondary (1977) and tertiary (1988) levels. These measures have helped literacy rates among girls reach 90%.

(AfDB, Africa Gender Equality Index 2015)

The Case of Nigeria

  • Men make up about 50.6% of the Nigerian population while women, 49.4%; a very close ratio. (Nigerian Population Clock (as at 07-03-2018).
  • Female enrolment in primary schools increased from 45.7 percent in 2010 to 48.6 percent in 2015 (National Bureau of Statistics (November, 2016).
  • There are about 50.0million adult women in Nigeria (EFInA 2014).
  • In 2015, the national labour force participation rate of women and men in the ages 15-64 years was 74.7 percent. The proportion of men was 82.6 percent while women accounted for 78.4 percent. (National Bureau of Statistics (November, 2016).
  • In Q4 2016, 16.3% of women in the labour force (those between 15 – 65 willing, able and actively working or searching for work) were unemployed and a further 24.2% of women in the labour force were underemployed. On the other hand, 12.3% of males were unemployed while a further 17.9% in the labour force were underemployed during the same period. (National Bureau of Statistics (June, 2017).
  • Women make up 70% of the agricultural workforce, but remain highest in poverty (AFDB, 2015).
  • On average, women earn 23% on average less than male counterparts (World Economic Forum 2016)
  • Only 1.9% of adult women get their main source of income from the formal sector compared with 4.3% of adult men (EFinA Access to Financial Services in Nigeria 2014 Survey).
  • 41% of women in Nigerian are entrepreneurs, making Nigeria the country with the highest number of female entrepreneurs. (2015 No Ceilings initiative study of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation).
  • Nigeria has integrated gender diversity into its principles of corporate governance. (AfDB 2015)
  • Nigeria ranks 180 of 193 countries for women in national parliament (Inter-parliament Union 2017). Only 4% of seats are held by women in the upper house whilst men hold the remaining 96% (World Economic Forum 2016).
  • A proposed gender equality bill seeking 35% Affirmative Action at Federal level and 20% at state level has been voted out by two thirds of the senators.

Although, over the years, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, religious and economic facets of human existence and most especially in Africa where historically, the societies have been largely patriarchal; there are strong justifications for the need to attain gender parity in the world today.

“Women empowerment, as well as their active involvement in leadership and business would lead to a contribution of about $28trillion to global economy, which is about the size of the economies of the United States and China put together” (Thomas Reuters Foundation).

Moreover, in Africa, women make a sizeable contribution to the continent’s economy and are more economically active as farmers and entrepreneurs than women in any other region of the world. It is women who grow most of Africa’s food, and who own one-third of all businesses.

In general, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB 2018), Gender equality can enhance economic growth and improve other development outcomes in three ways: (i) increasing women’s access to and control over resources can generate broad productivity gains, (ii) improving women’s and girls’ status improves many other development outcomes (health, nutrition, etc.), and (iii) crucially, women’s economic gains benefit not only themselves but also the next generation, magnifying the development impact.

Although the WEF report has disclosed that the most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic and health spheres whilst the political dimension currently holds the widest gender gap though exhibiting the most progress, Africa is only 32% away from attaining gender parity. There is therefore a strong justification to press for further progress in attaining parity on the continent if governments take the lead and clearly remove the barriers that disproportionately limit progress with gender parity.

Notably in Nigeria, the legislature can drive over half of the progress if the contents of the gender bill are reviewed and passed into law; whilst the civil society (especially advocacy groups) demand for more progress in attaining equality.

Within the corporate sector, a number of industries have made significant progress with promoting women’s rights. For instance, the Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles (NSBP) a set of principles guiding the operations of the financial sector in the country makes it compulsory within in its principle five (5) for banks to integrate within their operations the promotion of women’s economic empowerment through a gender inclusive workplace culture and the provision of products and services designed specifically for women through business activities. Nevertheless, significant results can only be achieved when all other sectors do likewise.


AfDB (2013), Investing in Gender Equality for Africa’s Transformation: AfDB, Quality Assurance and Results Department Gender and Social Development Monitoring Division

AfDB (2015), Africa Gender Equality Index 2015: Empowering African Women: An Agenda for Action: African Development Bank

AfDB (2015), Where are the Women: Inclusive Boardrooms in Africa’s top listed companies? African Development Bank

Bill C., et. al (20165), 2015 No Ceilings initiative study of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation

EFInA (2014), Access to Financial Services in Nigeria 2014 Survey: Key Findings: Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access, Dec. 2, 2014

EFInA (2014), EFInA Innovation Grant Round 6: Digital Financial Services for Women: Landscape of Women’s Financial Inclusion in Nigeria: Window Two: Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access

ILO (2016), Women at Work Trends: International Labour Organization

NBS (2016), Statistical Report on Women and Men in Nigeria: November 2016

NBS (2017), Unemployment/Underemployment Report, Q4 2016: June 2017

OSSAP on MDGs (2015), Nigeria 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) End Point Result (abridged version): Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals

UNDP (2016), Africa Human Development Report 2016

WEF (2017), The Global Gender Gap Report: World Economic Forum







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