It is these countries plagued by near-constant political and economic instability that are often the ones most in need of private investment. Yet they are also the places few private investors are willing to go. The risks seem to outweigh the rewards.
Debunking common misconceptions about women in agribusiness can unlock business opportunities for the private sector
At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, global leaders from across the world came together to deliberate on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as agriculture and food security and greater social inclusion. With the global population projected to rise more than 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food expected to jump sharply, the need for addressing the challenges of food security assumes greater urgency than before. There is also a growing need to adopt stronger measures to reduce the gender gap—women shouldn’t have to wait 170 years to bridge the divide.
Ahead of the Davos meeting, IFC released a report on agribusiness, Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains, highlighting how companies can increase productivity and efficiency in the agriculture sector by closing economic and social gaps between women and men throughout the value chain, from farm to retail and beyond. The solution to address two of the most pressing challenges—food security and gender parity—isn’t difficult to find, as my research for the report suggests.
Women comprise over 40 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide and play a major role in agriculture; yet they face a variety of constraints, such as limited access to agricultural inputs, technologies, finance, and networks. As the report shows, an increasing number of companies now recognize that investing in women can help increase companies’ bottom lines—while helping improve the lives of people in rural areas.
Yet, despite the clear business rationale, one wonders why more companies aren’t replicating the efforts of successful companies. The answer probably lies in the prevailing misconceptions about women in agribusiness—despite promising business case testimonials for gender-smart investments from multinational companies such as Mondelēz International and Primark.
Agribusiness companies need support in identifying where and how they can close gender gaps in their value chain. A good start would be to debunk those common misconceptions about women in the sector:
Urgent action is needed to mobilize, redirect and unlock trillions of dollars of private resources to ensure global growth and shared prosperity.
Since 1956, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s member focused exclusively on the private sector, leveraged $2.5 billion in paid-in capital from its shareholders to invest over a trillion dollars for private sector development. IFC’s 60 years of experience has demonstrated the private sector’s ability to create innovative, commercially viable solutions that deliver development impact.
“A year ago, we all signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals. The only way to achieve these goals is if private capital funds them and private business implements them,” said Gavin Wilson, CEO of IFC’s Asset Management Company (AMC) during the World Bank Group/IMF Annual Meetings 2016.
“That’s why we came up with the phrase ‘Billions to Trillions’ last year with our multilateral institutions in the run-up to the Addis conference on financing for development,” he added.
But what does “Billions to Trillions” actually mean? Wilson explained that “we must convert billions of official assistance … to the trillions in total financing.” But he raised a very important question:
Oilmin Holdings, a logistics management company providing services to the oil, gas, and mining industry in Papua New Guinea, did not employ all that many women, but they had a star performer in Rose.
Rose had risen from administrative assistant to office manager in the company’s headquarters in Port Moresby. Her boss at Oilmin wanted her to go further up the chain, but in their industry, the next logical step – and one required for senior management roles - was managing a field site. It required long hours and smarts. Rose was willing and able, but it also meant a very remote location. It was too risky, her managers decided; they didn’t know how to keep her safe. Sending extra security guards – all male – would only increase the risk to her, not protect her, they concluded.
It is not often that I get to reflect on my own early childhood experience: Some 40 years ago, I attended a public kindergarten in a small town in Germany. My mother would take me there on her blue bike at 7 a.m., I would spend the morning with eight other children my age, and at around 1 p.m., she would pick me up. Many of my friends and colleagues had similar early childhood experiences.
Considering that the potential benefits from supporting early childhood development range from healthy development to greater capacity to learn while in school and increased productivity in adulthood, I consider myself very lucky. Across the world, nearly half of all three- to six-year-olds (159 million children) are deprived of access to pre-primary education (UIS, 2012). Evidence from both developed and developing countries suggests that an additional dollar invested in high-quality preschool programs will yield a return of anywhere between US$6 and US$17.
More broadly speaking, a new study by ITUC shows that investment in the care economy of 2 percent of GDP in just seven developed countries would create more than 21 million jobs and help countries overcome the twin challenges of aging populations and economic stagnation. So the development case for investing in childcare is clear. What about the business case?
Female board members can dramatically improve the fortunes of public companies — and the Middle East
While the Middle East has made strides towards gender equality in recent years, the upper echelons of its corporate world are still dominated by men.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in Jordan. Women there hold just 4% of all board of directors’ seats, and nearly four-fifths of firms don’t have any women on their boards. Those numbers pale in comparison with many other countries, including the United Kingdom, where 25% of all board members are women.
But a new study from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, suggests that companies would do well to inject some female leadership into their ranks — a finding that has deep implications for the entire region.
Mobile Banking, Movable Collateral Registries, Can Boost Female Financial InclusionEmpowering women, creating opportunities for all, and tapping everyone’s talents—these aren’t just preconditions to achieving every other vital development goal. They’re essential to building prosperous, resilient economies and meeting the fast-growing challenges of the 21st century.
Tomorrow morning, Pope Francis will kick off the UN General Assembly’s session on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and by the end of the day, the world’s leaders will have affirmed the 17 goals. This is a momentous occasion, worth celebrating, but the hard work begins Monday morning. That’s when the focus shifts from what to how.
The first 16 goals cover a range of critical development needs, expanding on the Millennium Development Goals that have guided development efforts since 2000. The final SDG is qualitatively different. Rather than expound on what we want to achieve, it addresses how we will achieve the goals. It focuses on the means of implementation.