Include women in digital uptake for real economic growth

Head of SME banking at Absa Bank Kenya, Susan Situma. 

The workplace is experiencing change going by the World Economic Forum’s estimate that 50 per cent of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 due to adoption of new technology.

Indeed, some two million new jobs are expected to be created in the computer, mathematical, architecture and engineering fields.

Back in 2018, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development predicted that 90 per cent of future jobs would require ICT skills by 2020.

Mobile broadband - or using tablets, mobile phones, and other portable devices to access the internet - represents the fastest technological uptake in human history.

However, women have less access to smartphones, compared to men. 

According to a 2018 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on bridging the digital gender divide, 327 million fewer women than men had a smartphone and hence lacked access to the internet.

The report further says women in Africa are 34 per cent less likely than men to own a smartphone.

From a business financing perspective, studies by the International Monetary Fund show women-owned startups receive 23 per cent less funding and are 30 per cent less likely to have a positive exit compared to male-owned businesses.

These numbers offer a chance to purposefully pause and reflect on how we can empower and provide the right support to our women in the workplace and communities.

Create opportunities

This is especially in view of the fact that equity is about creating opportunities and widening access to women who need financial support to grow their businesses.

Studies have shown that business incubation training seminars positively impact a nation’s economy and women entrepreneurs, in particular.

A study by the World Bank Group in West Africa in 2018 showed women who received personal initiative training that enables them to find solutions to business challenges saw their profit rise by 40 per cent compared to five per cent for those who had traditional business training.

Against this backdrop, Absa Bank has adopted a holistic approach to empowerment of women in business beyond financing solutions.

This has seen the bank train business owners on business sustainability, funding, bookkeeping, and networking to ensure that their businesses are profitable.

That said, we recognise that more needs to be done to ensure greater participation of women, especially in technology and innovation as a way of narrowing the digital gender gap.