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African women crucial to continent’s economic success

“We have a network of women in business and finance in 15 countries and we expect to expand our footprint across Africa even more. This network has helped to increase the visibility of women and the economic contribution they make to our economies. We intend to further amplify their voices so that more of them can use their talents, energy and creativity to tackle the many development challenges facing this continent," said Dr Daniels.
nomsaNomsa Daniels

The first New Faces New Voices Summit took place in 2010. Every two years since then, leading African women in finance and business meet to reflect and share strategies on the way they contribute to and influence economies across the continent.

The third New Faces New Voices (NFNV) Summit takes place in Lusaka, Zambia, from 24 to 26 July 2014, under the theme African women realising Africa’s economic potential. Zambia’s first lady, Dr Christine Kaseba-Sata, and NFNV founder Mrs Graça Machel are joint hosts.

NFNV is a pan-African advocacy group, part of Mrs Machel’s broader vision of promoting the faces and voices of women from across the continent. The network focuses on expanding the role and influence of women in the financial sector.

The advocacy group’s executive director, Dr Nomsa Daniels, said women must raise their voices and participate in the economies of their countries – this is necessary for Africa’s development. Women account for 51% of the continent’s population, but they own only 26% of formal business in Africa and only 21.5% of women are formally banked.

The NFNV initiative aims to enable women to seize opportunities in the changing economic environment of Africa. The World Bank’s Africa Pulse states that nearly a quarter of African countries grew at the rate of 7% and higher in 2012. The role of women in these burgeoning economies is crucial as they largely continue to be central in advancing their societies.

New Faces New Voices has highlighted the value of African women and the part they play in building and shaping economies in Africa, said Dr Daniels.

The idea to network women in the economic sector was born in 2009 when Mrs Machel challenged a group of African women to enter the debate on restructuring the global financial system in the wake of the worldwide economic shock of 2008. The informal discussion created a buzz and an energy that many in the room recognised. It was clear that something needed to be done to ensure that this generation of women would be the last to face such serious structural barriers.

The network of women in finance – New Faces New Voices – was established soon afterwards with the objective of expanding the role and influence of women in the financial sector. Continental bodies like the AU and the African Development Bank embraced it as a new and important stakeholder on the scene.

A day before the opening of this year’s summit, the Graca Machel Trust will host a roundtable to identify practical ways for African women to reposition their voices and images in the media.

Find the summit programme on the NFNV website.