Promoting gender equity and equality is a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in Africa and around the world. Advancing the status of women and girls is not only a matter of human rights, justice, and fairness—it is also a strategic imperative that reduces poverty and promotes sustainable economic growth, increases access to education, improves health outcomes, advances political stability, and fosters democracy.
At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, Vice President Kamala Harris announced new commitments to advance women’s economic participation in Africa, including the African Women’s Trade and Investment Project and the revitalization of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program. These programs build upon a range of Administration initiatives to foster women’s economic, political, and social inclusion on the continent—many which advance the Administration’s priority to drive gender equality and equity investments and gender-aligned infrastructure development through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment.
Women’s Economic Participation
Advancing Women’s Entrepreneurship and Equality: The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced $358 million of new investments, including projects under DFC’s 2X Women’s Initiative, which has catalyzed billions of dollars of projects owned by women, led by women, or empowering women. Investments include support for innovative entrepreneurship approaches, including an equity investment up to $15 million equity in the Norrsken22 Africa Fund, a women-led fund investing in high-impact technology companies across Africa, which will support entrepreneurship and technological advancements in finance, medicine, and education; a $20 million loan to One Acre Fund, which will provide financing for agricultural inputs, aiming to increase farm yields in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a strong focus on female farmers; and a $25 million investment in the Uhuru Growth Fund I-A, which will provide needed growth capital to small- and medium-sized enterprises in West Africa, including women-led businesses.
At the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) announced a Regional Transport Compact with the governments of Niger and Benin that includes $7.5 million for entrepreneurship and training programs for women and youth, to mitigate HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, trafficking in persons risks, and road enhancements to support poor and vulnerable women who sell their goods along the transport corridors. Earlier this year, MCC also signed a new Health and Horticulture Compact with the government of Lesotho that provides an estimated $21 million to advance women’s entrepreneurship, including pursuing reforms such as land rights for women, inheritance rights for daughters, stronger labor rights for agricultural workers, and protections against domestic violence.
African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP): The Vice President announced plans to provide $1 million for AWEP, which will provide small grants to train women entrepreneurs and support women-owned businesses in sub-Saharan Africa.
Accelerating Women’s Participation in Green Jobs: The Department of State will launch the Accelerating Women’s Empowerment in Energy (AWEE) project with an initial investment of $1 million to help secure women’s economic future through green jobs, with a focus on Kenya and South Africa. The program will provide grants to local organizations to address barriers to women’s entry, promotion, and retention in the workforce. USAID Power Africa is launching a new activity to support women’s participation in the energy sector in Nigeria through training and capacity building, policies that promote gender equity in the workforce; and job placement.
Mobilizing Networks for Dignified Work: The Department of State will launch the Middle East and North Africa Employers for Gender Equitable and Inclusive Workplace Policies initiative with an investment of $3.5 million to help create employer policies and practices that are gender-equitable, inclusive, improve the security of employed women, including advocating for national legislation in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. The project engages with local and multinational companies, governments, and civil society organizations representing women workers.
Economic Security for Survivors of Trafficking: The Department of State will launch the Fostering Economic Security Through Enhanced Reintegration Support for Victims of Trafficking program with an initial investment of $1 million. This project will enhance and extend reintegration options for trafficking survivors who choose to pursue entrepreneurship by developing tools and capacity building, increasing and extending support, and enhancing monitoring. Countries that may benefit from global programming are Ghana and Nigeria.
Technology and Innovation
Initiative on Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA): Working with Congress, this signature initiative of the Biden-Harris Administration intends to invest over $350 million and facilitate over $450 million in financing for Africa to foster the growth of a healthy, inclusive, and resilient digital ecosystem in Africa. DTA will prioritize addressing gender and other social digital divides and accelerating women’s empowerment through and within the digital ecosystem.
Gender-Based Violence and Human Rights
Addressing Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse: At the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the United States announced Kenya’s membership as one of the newest partner governments in the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse. First launched at the Summit for Democracy, the Global Partnership brings together countries, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to address the growing scourge of technology-facilitated gender-based violence, including developing and advancing shared principles; increasing targeted programming and resources; and improving data collection on this scourge. Furthermore, USAID Administrator Power announced at the Civil Society Forum the launch of the Transform Digital Spaces program. Working with Congress, the program plans to invest $1.3 million to pilot practical activities in Africa to prevent, respond to, and mitigate the risk of technology facilitated gender-based violence, including perpetrated against women in politics and public life.
Combating Gender-Based Violence in the Workplace: Earlier this year, MCC signed a new Compact with Malawi, which includes a $4 million Market Regulation for Inclusive Growth program to support stronger and more effective regulation of gender-based violence in markets and associated transport services. This includes pervasive price discrimination, sexual harassment, and targeted theft that affects women traders. This program will work with market committees, NGOs, and various public sector stakeholders to identify effective regulatory mechanisms across the 5-year Compact period.
Strengthening Respect for Human Rights of Women: Working with Congress, the State Department will launch the Holding Rights, Leading for Rights initiative with a $1 million investment to increase the resources and technical capacity of women with disabilities in West Africa to seek equal treatment under the law, effectively demand their rights, and reduce stigma and harmful practices.
Advancing Equity in the Global Health Workforce: Around the world 70% of health workers are women, but many are unpaid for their critical contributions to health and the economy. Last May, the White House launched the Global Health Worker Initiative (GHWI), recognizing that a comprehensive, trained, protected, well-equipped, and supported health workforce is foundational to expanding equitable access to public health services. One pillar of the GHWI is focused on expanding equity and inclusion. As part of the GHWI, the Administration plans to work with Congress to invest $1.33 billion annually from 2022 to 2024 in the health workforce in the Africa region, for a total of at least $4 billion by Fiscal Year 2025.
Improving Health System Resilience by Investing in Women-Led Funds: DFC and USAID will partner with the Transform Health Fund, a majority women-led fund that brings together government, donor, and commercial investments under the leadership of AfricInvest and the Health Finance Coalition to finance enterprises that improve health system resilience and pandemic preparedness across the continent. DFC and USAID will finalize $10 million in equity financing and $1 million in catalytic grant funding respectively. The Fund will also promote women in leadership positions across its pipeline and target female consumers while ensuring that at least 30% of its portfolio is aligned with 2X criteria, DFCs flagship program to support women’s economic empowerment in emerging markets.
Women, Peace, and Security
Fostering Women’s Inclusion in Peace and Security Processes: The Department of State, though the Support Her Empowerment – Women’s Inclusion in New Security (SHE WINS) initiative announced at the Summit for Democracy, will invest $1.5 million in a new project to strengthen the leadership of local women and women-led civil society organizations to address peace and security challenges in their communities. This program will support women’s participation in local peace building and security processes through targeted initiatives, including in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.