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The World Bank’s Africa Region Gender Action Plan FY18-22


The World Bank’s Africa Region Gender Action Plan FY18-22

The World Bank’s Africa Region Gender Action Plan FY18-22
Photo credit: Simone D. McCourtie | World Bank

This Regional Gender Action Plan (RGAP) presents the broad approach that the Africa Region of the WBG will take to address gender inequality FY18-22.

The RGAP is not intended to be an additional administrative burden for Bank staff, but rather to serve as a focal point, so that all teams across the Africa region of the World Bank Group (WBG) are all pulling in the same direction with our approach to addressing gender issues. The ultimate objective is to advance development for both men and women through operations grounded in robust evidence and informed country dialogue.

This RGAP replaces the previous RGAP for FY13-17 and is especially timely given the launch of a new WBG gender strategy in FY16, the recent shift in how the WBG identifies country level priorities with the introduction of Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCDs), and the change in the system that the Bank uses for monitoring gender integration in Bank operations. The new RGAP is also timely given the recent release of the Global GBV Task Force Report and associated Action Plan for Implementation, outlining recommendations to strengthen institutional tools, systems, and processes to prevent and mitigate the risks of sexual exploitation and abuse and other forms of gender-based violence in Bank-supported projects.

This RGAP starts from a discussion of five-well established priority thematic areas (section 2). While these areas provide a clear operational focus, there are emerging issues in the region for which there is a need to further strengthen the knowledge base. Section 3 discusses these frontier issues and how developing evidence can help lead to effective and scalable interventions. Section 4 provides the channels for implementing the plan and section 5 provides key indicators to monitor progress.

The five thematic areas that have been identified as encompassing the most pressing gender issues in sub-Saharan Africa are:

  1. Reproductive health and demographics;

  2. Gender gaps in schooling and issues around adolescence;

  3. Gender gaps in agricultural productivity;

  4. Gender gaps in entrepreneurship and access to jobs; and

  5. Gender constraints related to fragility, conflict, and violence.

Frontier issues, where efforts will be focused on developing emerging evidence to fill knowledge gaps, include: social norms around ‘manhood’ and the importance of engaging men in projects to gain their support and to influence key norms and behaviors; occupational segregation by sex and the factors that may allow women to cross-over into more highly remunerated and profitable sectors that have traditionally been dominated by men; the importance of non-cognitive skills for women’s ability to overcome the greater constraints they face as entrepreneurs and farmers; women’s unequal roles in unpaid/domestic work and the impacts on productivity, timeuse, and other outcomes of providing family care; and the effectiveness of interventions to address psychosocial health issues, such as the negative side effects of experiencing rape and other forms of gender-based violence.

The channels of actions through which the RGAP will be implemented include: integrating gender in country level strategic documents (SCDs, CPFs) and policy dialogue; integrating gender into WBG operations; and research/research-uptake to fill critical gender-related knowledge gaps and to ensure that new research influences policies and interventions. A guiding principle of this RGAP is that there should be a coherent and strategic approach to gender that starts with the analysis presented in the SCD, which then feeds into the overall country strategy outlined in the Country Partnership Framework (CPF), which in turn identifies the key areas where gender-informed interventions are called for in individual Bank-funded operations. At each of these stages, the Bank’s work will be continuously refined based on emerging evidence generated by impact evaluations, lessons learnt during operations, and other research from inside and outside the WBG.

Theme 3: Gender Gaps in Agricultural Productivity

Improving agricultural productivity is critical for the achievement of the WBG’s twin goals in sub-Saharan Africa: the agriculture sector employs the majority of the region’s workers, including the poorest, accounts for 30-40 percent of GDP, and makes a vital contribution to household food security. However, research shows that women farmers face a series of constraints that make them much less productive than their male counterparts.

The World Bank’s Leveling the Field report (World Bank and ONE, 2014) finds that gender gaps in agricultural productivity range from 24 percent in Ethiopia to 66 percent in Niger. These gender gaps are underpinned not only by women’s lower access to productive inputs (land, labor, fertilizer, improved seeds, and agricultural information), but also by their lower returns to these inputs. This has important implications for how we address the gender gap: for example, giving women in Southern Nigeria equal access to productive inputs would allow them to be just as productive as men, while this would not be sufficient in Northern Nigeria, where women receive lower returns to these inputs. Women’s lower returns are likely driven by social norms, market failures, and institutional constraints. For example, in many countries agricultural extension services are aimed at men, so their design may not sufficiently consider the needs of women farmers. Women also usually tend to bear a greater burden for domestic tasks, which may impede their ability to supervise farm labor, leading to lower returns from that labor. Indeed, evidence shows that, compared to men, women in Malawi, Niger, southern Nigeria, and Uganda, suffer a larger reduction in their productivity with each additional child in the household.

Female-headed households face a specific set of constraints. These households tend to be smaller, so they have less labor to draw upon for farm work. They may also have less access to certain productive assets, especially land, as women often access such assets through male household members. Access to land is critical. Research indicates that weaker land tenure security is associated with lower levels of productive investments in land (Goldstein and Udry, 2008), and that interventions to strengthen land tenure security have stronger impacts on women’s than men’s productive investments (Ali et al, 2014).

Women farmers also have less access to export markets. This is significant as these crops are more profitable. For example, in Malawi growing tobacco, an export crop, is associated with a 71 percent increase in annual net income from crop activities per hectare of land. Yet tobacco is grown on only 3 percent of women-managed plots, compared to 10 percent of men-managed plots. Kilic et al (2015) find that women’s lower involvement in cash crop farming (tobacco and cotton) drives the gender gap in agricultural productivity in Malawi.

Within the World Bank’s regional portfolio, efforts to close gender gaps in agricultural productivity will address women’s access and returns to productive inputs. In some cases, specific component or sub-components will be designed for and targeted at women, while in other cases non-gender specific projects will be designed with women’s and men’s different needs in mind, to ensure that all participants are able to benefit to the greatest extent possible. For example, attention will be paid to women’s different time use patterns. Beyond productivity, there will also be a focus on the role of agriculture (and women’s specific role within agriculture) in ensuring improved household nutrition.

Theme 4: Gender Gaps in Entrepreneurship and Jobs

Compared to other regions, women in sub-Saharan Africa are very active in the labor force, especially as entrepreneurs: sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where women make up the majority of those who are selfemployed (World Bank, 2013) and the only region where the percentage of women who are self-employed is higher than the percentage of women in wage work.

However, women often move into entrepreneurship simply because there are too few opportunities for them in wage employment. As entrepreneurs, women face multiple constraints, resulting in lower sales, profits, value added, and number of employees, compared to businesses owned by men. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, almost half of informal firms with no paid employees are owned by women, compared to only 20 percent of those with six or more employees (World Bank Enterprise Surveys, informal module); Bardasi et al (2011) find that the average sales of women-owned firms are 13 percent lower than those of male-owned firms, even after accounting for the sector of operation; and Hallward-Driemeier (2013) finds that African firms owned by women achieve 6 percent lower value-added compared to those owned by men.

The constraints to women’s entrepreneurship include: contextual factors (legal discrimination, social norms); endowments (education/skills, confidence, capital/assets, networks/information); and individual, household, and community preferences (allocation of household resources, risk preferences, time use). These constraints influence women’s strategic choices, such as which sectors to enter and whether to formalize their businesses, and these choices in turn contribute to their poorer business outcomes. For example, women are less likely to operate businesses in more profitable sectors such as transport, manufacturing, and construction, and are more likely to be in less profitable sectors, such as commerce and hospitality. Women tend to divert a higher proportion of their capital to household expenses and invest less in their businesses (Fafchamps et al., 2014). While these expenses, such as school fees, are also important investments to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, they also impede the growth potential of women’s businesses. Women are less likely to formalize their businesses, reducing their options for accessing finance. Finally, women are also less likely to adopt advanced business practices.

Wage employment is limited for both men and women in sub-Saharan Africa, but even more so for women. For example, across the region, around 13 percent of men are non-agricultural wage workers, compared to around 5 percent of women. Additionally, women tend to work in lower paying and less secure jobs and are more likely than men to be unpaid workers and to work in the informal sector. For example, almost 20 percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa are unpaid workers, compared to around 15 percent of men, while the World Development Indicators suggest that Sub-Saharan African countries have an average of 63 percent of women in vulnerable employment, compared to 54 percent of men. The constraints to women’s access to better jobs include their lower level of education and skills, occupational sex segregation, and women’s greater share of various domestic responsibilities, such as child care and caring responsibilities for elderly, sick, and disabled family members, and fetching water or fuel. Underpinning many of these constraints are social norms.

Within the WBG’s regional portfolio, efforts to improve business outcomes and access to jobs for women include support to help women overcome constraints related to their access to capital, skills, markets, and social norms. Activities to address capital constraints include cash grants and alternatives to traditional collateral for business loans. Activities to address skills constraints include vocational skills training, business incubators for women and alternatives to traditional management training, such as non-cognitive skills training. Activities to address women’s access to markets include support to help women move up the value chain in agribusiness. Activities to address social norms include support to women to enter more profitable sectors that are traditionally dominated by men and the provision of child care, elder care, or other domestic caring services and improvements in water and transport infrastructure to counter women’s greater burden for domestic tasks.


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