Gender gap costs sub-Saharan Africa $US95 billion a year: New UNDP report

Oct 13, 2016

Addis Ababa, 13 October 2016 - "Despite commendable progress, disparities and inequality between male and female still persist to-date," UNDP Ethiopia Resident Representative underlined at the launch of the 2016 African Human Development Report.  

According to the report, gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014– or six percent of the region’s GDP – jeopardising the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth.

If women are not economically empowered, achieving gender equality will be out of reach, Ethiopia's First Lady H.E. Roman Tesfaye warned as she delivered her keynote address at the launch ceremony. She also stressed that the aspirations of Agenda 2030 will not be met without deliberate effort aimed at addressing gender inequality.

The 2016 African Human Development report analyses the political, economic and social drivers that hamper African women’s advancement and proposes policies and concrete actions to close the gender gap. These include addressing the contradiction between legal provisions and practice in gender laws; breaking down harmful social norms and transforming discriminatory institutional settings; and securing women’s economic, social and political participation.

Deeply-rooted structural obstacles such as unequal distribution of resources, power and wealth, combined with social institutions and norms that sustain inequality are holding African women, and the rest of the continent, back. The report estimates that a 1 percent increase in gender inequality reduces a country’s human development index by 0.75 percent.

There are over 30% women leaders in the Ethiopian parliament which is a commendable achievement. Yet, more need to be done in the areas of empowering women leaders in business; the academics and elevating their rights in social matters and to do away with all forms of discrimination that women encounter at home, school and in the work place.

The 2016 AfDHR report presents recommendations for African countries to forge alliance and ensure institutional collaboration for gender equity and presents a 6 point Agenda for Action for the continent.

The report further recommends six enabling actions to fast-track the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and by extension, the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063:

  • Using gender equality as an organising policy lens for all development planning and implementation to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment is a deliberate design feature.


  • Directly tackling destructive social norms as African leaders can no longer abdicate from their responsibility to address harmful social norms in a straightforward and unambiguous manner.


  • Planning and budget prioritisation for gender equality that foregoes short-term politically and economically expedient decision-making, and instead links immediate priorities to a long-term vision mapping out a more inclusive and empowering development trajectory.


  • Ensuring adaptive national institutions to drive a strong, proactive and responsible social framework that develops policies, follows through implementation and readjusts in the face of shifting evidence and the changing needs of society.


  • Giving value to data for improved decision-making and informed policy change and mid-course corrections. Data disaggregation beyond national-level is critical to gauge impact at regional and local-levels.  


  • Engaging in regional and South-South Cooperation in designing and implementing gender-focused policies and initiatives to share tools, strategies and experiences across sectors.



The 2016 African Human Development report stressed that it is the countries that invest more in gender equality and women’s empowerment that find themselves doing better on human development.  


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Human development is about expanding human choices - the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of economies. This idea focuses on people, and their capabilities and opportunities. The Human Development Reports use this approach to analyse some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity to achieve sustainable progress. This is the second-ever Africa Human Development Report. The Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future can be found here.



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