Last week Gaia joined a group of women from across Africa as they gathered in Cape Town to discuss the role of women in Africa’s economic landscape. The meeting was in advance of the World Economic Forum which will take place this week, 8th -10th May.

The statement sets out the position of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), based in Ghana, and a number of other African and international NGO’s, including The Gaia Foundation and our South African partner The Mupo Foundation.

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The Statement – 6th May 2013

We the undersigned participants at a strategic meeting on Women’s Economic Empowerment and Livelihoods, held in Cape Town on 3-4 May under the auspices of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), wish to communicate the following key messages from our deliberations to the World Economic Forum-Africa meeting “Delivering on Africa’s Promise”, 8-10 May 2013.

We welcome the new positive image of “Africa Rising,” and stand proud of the achievements of the continent’s women and men against overwhelming odds. As partners in the efforts to ensure that Africa’s growth is sustainable and is in the interest of the continent and its peoples, we wish to bring to the attention of this meeting, the following concerns in the hopes that they will form a part of the deliberations:

1. From colonialisation to globalisation, African women have been brutally marginalised from Africa’s economic activity. The colonial economic model, which dominates “development” planning to this day, deliberately destroyed indigenous African systems of production, which were based on careful custodianship of our natural resources for present and future generations. As a result, African women’s economic contribution, skills and knowledge have been devalued and relegated to the “informal economy.” The result has been that even now, economic growth and the so-called “promise of Africa” have had little relevance to the vast majority of Africa’s women.

2. Women’s wealth in Africa has been intimately tied to traditional forms of communal resource ownership in which communities have evolved equitable and sustainable systems of wealth creation and distribution. These same communal systems have protected and enriched Africa’s greatest assets: a natural heritage second to none, with abundant water, forest and land based resources, as well as bounteous plant, marine and animal life. The definition of Africa’s wealth and economy in limited terms of GDP obscures the true value of the continent’s real capital.

3. The fuel of Africa’s economic growth and development is its food system. Food systems in Africa rely on indigenous local products.The 2010-2011 report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation on ‘The State of Food and Agriculture’[1] indicates that in Africa 50-80% of agricultural labour is provided by women. Africa’s primary food security systems are at threat from the process of relentless land degradation, dispossession, privatisation and large scale land grabs. Furthermore, these local food production systems are threatened by the loss of women’s indigenous knowledge necessary to preserve our rich ecosystems, seeds and animal biodiversity. However, women farmers are being driven out of the food economy under the relentless drive towards exclusively large-scale commercial agriculture. The impact of these approaches to our environment and to our complex ecosystems cannot be stressed enough. It is time for urgent action now.

We urge African political and business leaders participating at the Regional Africa World Economic Forum 2013 to broaden their understanding of an “emerging Africa” beyond extractive industry driven GDP. A balance must be struck between nurturing real African economies–where we “produce what we consume and consume what we produce”–and slavishly aligning our production systems to the requirements of external powers. As African women, we wish to end the cycle of exclusion and marginalisation that has characterised Africa’s location in the global economy, and our participation as citizens within it.

As a group of African feminists, women’s rights and social justice activists passionate about the realisation of the rights of all Africans we commit ourselves to work with women, decision makers, business people and thought leaders across the continent to reimagine and work towards Africa’s transformation guided by principles of sovereignty, self-determination, equity and justice.

You can view the pdf of this statement here.


African Women’s Development Fund (Regional)

African Women’s Economic Policy Network (Uganda)

Biowatch (South Africa)

Busia Community Based Services (Kenya)

Economic Justice Network (South Africa)

The Gaia Foundation (International)

Grassroots Organisation Operating Together in Sisterhood (Kenya)

Land Access Movement of South Africa (South Africa)

Rural Women’s Movement (South Africa)

SOS Addis (Ethiopia)

Surplus People Project (South Africa)

Tanzania Gender Network Program (Tanzania)

The African Biodiversity Network (Kenya)

The Association of Uganda Professional Women in Agriculture and Environment (Uganda)

The Mupo Foundation (South Africa)

Wheat Trust (South Africa)

Women and Resources in Eastern and Southern Africa (Zimbabwe)

Women’s Leadership and Training Programme (South Africa)


[1]Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 2011.2010-2011: The State of Food and Agriculture [pdf] Available at: [Accessed 5th May 2013].