Reuters: Women’s Empowerment Will Accelerate Kenya’s Economic Prosperity
When President Barack Obama made his first visit to Kenya as US President last year, one of the poignant messages he left was an exhortation for communities to shun cultures that degrade women and girls.
“Imagine if you have a team and don’t let half of the team play. That makes no sense,” he said, referring to the denial of opportunities for women to fully participate in development.
The president’s message could not have been more pertinent, coming as it did when the country, like most of Africa, is thinking how to reap a ‘demographic dividend’ – or boost in economic productivity – from its declining fertility rate and growing youthful population.
This occurs if the number of people in the workforce increases relative to the number of dependents.
Countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong also called the “Asian Tigers” lifted millions out of poverty by lowering dependency ratio. Individuals and families were able to make savings which translated into investment and boosted economic growth. Combined with robust policies in education, health, employment and empowerment of its women, they were able to capitalize on their demographic window during the period 1965 and 1990.
With over 70% of Kenyans aged below 30, we are at the cusp of a demographic dividend. For this dividend to become a reality, Kenya will have to surmount some formidable challenges, none more exigent than the empowerment of its women.