The launch of this platform attracted nearly 300 professional women from across Africa, representing business, politics, law, civil society and media. Speakers at the forum said that the political liberation achieved decades ago is not good enough for Africa to move forward, and therefore there was a push for what they are calling the ‘second liberation’ – where the focus is on making the continent economically independent.
Speaking during the inauguration ceremony, Graca Machel said the forum will help to establish networks among women in the region with a common interest in developing their countries using pan-African ideas.
“Our networks are rooted in each country where we are represented. We believe that any social, cultural and economic transformation has to be driven by women in the context of the country they belong to, but a country alone is not enough. Hence, we encourage sub-regional cooperation,” explained Machel.
She said the choice of Tanzania as the host of the event was deliberate as the country was a sanctuary of early African liberation struggles. In the same spirit, Machel said the delegates came to Tanzania to pay respect to the East African country’s role in achieving African liberation and also to embark on a second liberation which will set the continent on a path to economic independence, with women as central drivers of change.
In her opening address at the conference, Tanzanian Vice-President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, commended the initiative saying ideas shared there could help inform policies and bring about gender parity. She agreed with other speakers that it would be a mistake to ignore women in pushing forward Africa’s transformation agenda. The Tanzanian deputy leader,who is also a member of the UN High Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, further made a personal commitment that she will support women in her country in any way to make sure they effectively participated in the Women Advancing Africa forum.
“Governments should provide an enabling infrastructure which seeks to promote gender parity. May I also call upon all of us here to ask our governments to take into account the implementation of the United Nations sustainable development goals for faster realization of economic empowerment, especially for women” Madam Hassan said.
The four-day event had several specialized discussions looking at different topics of interest such as agribusiness, energy and extractive industries, cross-border trade, financial inclusion, technology and media in the context of changing the narrative on women’s representation.
During discussions there were varied opinions, with some participants blaming men for monopolizing power during the independence movement, thereby marginalizing women. Other participants felt lessons could be drawn from the first stage of political liberation to achieve the second struggle for economic independence.
Appearing on a conference panel, Hadeel Ibrahim, the executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said the first struggle was about “power while the second one is about empowerment”. She stressed that the second liberation struggle needs to have a feminist agenda which is inclusive.
“The first liberation was about gaining power while the second one is about empowerment. This liberation should aim at inclusiveness for marginalized groups while adhering to good governance, where everyone is treated with dignity regardless of gender," said Ebrahim.
The former President of the Pan-African Parliament, Gertrude Mongella thinks that the success of the struggle for independence was achieved due to unity of purpose among nations. She believes that the same spirit of unity should help to make the second liberation a success.
Male speakers at the forum were equally supportive of the idea of women taking a driving seat in the economic transformation of Africa.
“Studies have shown that investing in women has economic benefits because the global GDP can expand by $12 trillion. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, the GDP can expand by $300 billion which is three times the amount of foreign aid to the continent. So you can see how important women are in driving economic transformation,” explained Sangu Delle a Ghanaian entrepreneur and chief executive officer for Golden Palm Investments Corporation.