International music star Angelique Kidjo is the voice of a new project designed to help women across the African continent. The project is partly aimed to change laws that block millions of women from wealth and property ownership.
Kidjo spoke about the project with The Associated Press, and described what she has seen over years of travel in Africa. She said women throughout the marketplaces wished they had the money and tools to do more.
“Why do banks give more loans to men versus women? That’s the question I have,” she said. “Millions of women entrepreneurs in Africa, they lack loans versus the men.”
Kidjo added, “And we know men pay less back than women.”
Next week, the artist will help the African Development Bank launch AFAWA, or Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa. Already, the Group of Seven world’s leading economies has committed $250 million to the effort. The African Development Bank is providing $1 billion, which will be deployed across all 54 African countries.
The goal is to raise $5 billion for efforts to guarantee loans, train women in finance and end some laws that can be barriers to getting credit.
African women face a $42-billion financing imbalance with men. In some countries, women are barred from opening bank accounts without approval from their husbands or fathers. Similarly, inheritance laws in parts of the continent often leave women with very little or even nothing.
But reforms are in progress. In 2018, a World Bank report said 32 percent of reforms in sub-Saharan African countries dealt with equal treatment for women and men in financial services. Angola, Congo and Zambia joined other countries in banning sex-based credit discrimination, the report said.
With the new fund for financing African women “we will be able to go as low as a few hundred dollars’ loan ... for people who need it the most,” said Vanessa Moungar, an African Development Bank official.
The AFAWA is set to launch this month in Rwanda at the Global Gender Summit. The conference gathers representatives from development banks around the world.
When Rwanda changed its own laws to give women access to land, their inclusion in financial services and products went from 36 percent to 63 percent in just four years, Moungar said.
“I want all the women out there to know what’s really driving us and our hearts, Moungar said. "We are working for them and nothing else.”
I’m Caty Weaver.
The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
versus - prep. used to indicate two different things, choices, etc., that are being compared or considered.
entrepreneur - n. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money
inheritance - n. money, property, etc., that is received from someone when that person dies
fund - n. an amount of money that is used for a special purpose
access - n. a way of getting near, at, or to something or someone
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