How increased women’s empowerment can foster growth

Women’s participation in the economy has seen some improvement across the African continent. For instance, Africa has the highest number of women entrepreneurs in the world, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Maximising this impressive women’s contribution to the economy is key to reducing poverty on the continent. The poverty level in Africa is not abating. According to the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), a knowledge-building institute that is focused on developing the continent, citizens in 10 of the 54 countries on the continent are experiencing a deep level of poverty.

As it stands, it is imperative to keep raising the level of women’s participation in the economy. It is believed that such growth action will deliver more support for local households, shore up incomes and enhance the continent’s combined gross national productivity rating.

Meanwhile, Nigeria, one of the top economies on the continent, continues to prioritize women’s empowerment as a path to enriching its economy. Presently, the country is seeing many private-led initiatives targeted at broadening the scope of women’s empowerment, in support of the Federal Government’s economic growth agenda.

One of the organisations driving Nigerian women’s empowerment agenda is Olam Agri in Nigeria, a leading agribusiness in food, feed, and fibre.

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In 2021 the organisation launched the Seeds for the Future project, a wheat value chain development effort, to improve the food security position of the country.

The effort later metamorphosed into a full-fledged corporate social investment (CSI) vehicle focused on promoting national food security, women empowerment, support for farmers, skill building, food fortification, and carbon reduction within the host market.

As part of the CSI vehicle, the business launched the Crown Flour Angels (CFA) initiative. The CFA is a women’s community-building and economic empowerment initiative.

It was borne out of the need to equip more women with baking skills and enhance their earnings while enabling them to contribute meaningfully to their community and the national economy.

“We believe that an investment in human capital development on a broader scale will engender national prosperity, and investment in educating women is key to enhancing the livelihoods of families,” said Ashish Pande, Olam Agri’s country head while speaking about the empowerment initiative.

“The Crown Flour Angels initiative is targeted at equipping keen women with the requisite baking skills to enhance their earning potential.”

Through the CFA initiative, Olam Agri in Nigeria trained and provided baking tools for 250 International Cake Exploration Societé (ICES) women in Lagos in 2022.

The trainees were further certified by the National Business & Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) to enable them to find deeper relevance in the industry, especially in helping them take up working roles in the hospitality sector or setting up their baking businesses.

Recently, it followed up the successful training of the ICES women with the launch of a baking academy in Kano.

The baking academy offers a scaled support framework for women across the northern region. The advantages presented by the baking academy are numerous.

Aspiring bakers will be able to earn a certificate and industry-specific knowledge that will help sharpen their competitive edge in the targeted industry.

The teachers in the baking school are experienced professionals who have gained knowledge in the industry through many years of working in the field.

The students will learn a wide range of baking skills from these eminent teachers who will shape their future for good. Also, the students will get hands-on experience in a live kitchen.

To underline the economic importance of the project, the Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero, who was present at the launch, applauded Olam Agri in Nigeria.

He remarked, “Olam Agri in Nigeria has done well by locating this academy in Kano State. The academy will help build our community by giving our women the opportunity to learn the skills that will yield good incomes for their households when put to commercial use.”

Bola Adeniji, head of marketing at Olam Agri in Nigeria, noted, “The launch of the baking academy offers a scaled support framework for women across the northern regions, and the choice of Kano is strategic.”

“The global bakery product market size was $397.90 billion in 2020. The market is projected to reach $590.54 billion in 2028. This growth projection presents an opportunity for bakers, including graduates from our baking academy,” she said.

“We are proud to be launching our women into this prosperous market through our initiative,” she added.

Through the participation of private organisations in supporting women, Nigeria is taking an important stride towards reducing poverty and achieving wider economic development. Other African countries need to follow suit as a sound path of raising the living standards of the people.

The growing inclusion of women on companies’ boards is a fine indicator of the importance of education in scaling the genders’ roles in driving socioeconomic growth. As of 2018, women held 23.4 percent of the top board positions on the boards of leading African companies.

This indicator supports the assertion by Gurudatt Kakkar, the pro-chancellor of India’s Career Point University, that education, which includes access to skill acquisition platforms such as the baking academy, improves women’s productivity level, and would increases a woman’s future earnings by around 15percent.