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SA: Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma: Address by former AU Chairperson, at the Women Economic Empowerment Engagement, eThewkini, KZN (28/09/2017)

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SA: Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma: Address by former AU Chairperson, at the Women Economic Empowerment Engagement, eThewkini, KZN (28/09/2017)

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Former AU Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

28th September 2017


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Programme Director
Representatives from the eThekwini City and the Provincial Government
Our Guests, Representatives from the City of New Orleans
Esteemed Panelists
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honoured to be part of this 3rd Essesnce festival, which celebrates the friendship between the City of New Orleans and eThekwini.


As we celebrate this festival under the theme ‘Firing with African Inspiration’, I am particularly pleased for this opportunity to speak at this Women’s Economic Empowerment Engagement.

Across the world evidence is piling up about the fact that including women at the highest levels in companies, impact positively on the bottom line. Across Africa it is realised that women’s empowerment is good, no better, for society as a whole. In South Africa, we wont succeed in tackling the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, without women in the driving seat.


South Africa is blessed to have had an esteemed leader of our liberation movement, OR Tambo who was the Champion of Women Emancipation who took women issues to the center stage of the liberation struggle. For he believed the struggles for freedom cannot be realised without the emancipation of women.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The system of patriarchy over centuries had an all-pervasive control over girls and women - their rights to education, to be heard and participate, to inherit, to network, to own property, conduct business, enter professions, over their bodies - in short to be part of the so-called public sphere that included politics and the economy.

The women’s movement over the last century has challenged this, and today we are making progress in advancing women’s empowerment.

However, despite this progress, although women perform 66% of the world’s work and produce 50% of the globe’s food, we earn only 10% of the world’s income and own only 1% of the world’s property (UN Development Fund for Women).

South Africa, with its peculiar history of apartheid colonialism, and the United States of America, with its history of the colonialism of the Native Americans, of slavery and segregation have a lot in common, and that is why this cooperation is important and we can learn from each other.

In South Africa, apartheid colonialism meant the deliberate exclusion of the black majority from social, political and economic power. These measures included:

· The theft of land, first through conquer and wars of occupation, then through the 1913 and 1926 Land Acts, the Group Areas and Bantustan Acts, Land taxes, and Influx control which restricts 80% of the population to 13% of the land;

· Keeping economic power in white hands through the building of the mining energy industrial complex, jobs reservation, and deliberate policies to prevent black economic participation in any aspect of the economy.

· Deliberate underdevelopment of the majority through inferior education, dormitory townships far from workplaces, overcrowded bantustans, inferior health care.

Ladies and Gentlemen

These conditions affected all black people, but black women faced ‘triple oppression.’ Not only were they restricted to 13% of the land, excluded from most jobs and professions, denied access to business opportunities and capital, given inferior education, but the intersection of patriarchy and apartheid colonialism made black women legal minors throughout their lives.

Black women could therefore not, even within the constraints imposed by apartheid -  contract, own property, inherit, be part of a pension scheme, conduct a legal business - and with their access to the professions severely restricted.

Thus, a key part of addressing the historical injustice, is to address the situation of half of South Africa’s and indeed the African and global population which is women.

Ladies and Gentlemen

In 2015, the world and Africa celebrated twenty years since the historic Beijing’s Womens Conference, which adopted a platform for action to address these issues. The research done by the UN Women reviewing progress since then indicated progress, but it also drew attention to the fact that if we carry on at the same pace, we will only achieve gender equality in the next 70 years time. That is not Acceptable.

In South Africa, we locate women’s economic empowerment in the context of Radical Economic Transformation, which is about changing the structure, ownership and management of the economy, so that it is representative of all South Africans, black and white, men and women, young and old.

There are a number of specific areas to which we must pay attention:
· The need for a skills revolution, to unlock the potential of young men and women, all of society to innovate, be entrepreneurial and develop solutions to the problems and challenges of our society.

· An agrarian and agro-processing revolution - through land reform and distribution, building small holder farmers, provision of extension services, capital and markets, and women getting into agroprocessing, including more young people studying agricultural sciences.

· Exploring the potential of the cultural and creative industries with its high potential for job creation - performing arts, publishing, film, crafts, festivals and a host of other sectors, including Tourism;

· Women and young people getting involved in the blue maritime economy - the entire value chain shipping and shipbuilding, port management and logistics, law, insurance, fishing, sports and tourism, and protecting the maritime environment.

· Taking charge of African mineral resources, and beneficiating them to ensure industrialization and infrastructure development;

· Leveraging women’s strengths in the financial sector, especially their savings, ability to repay loans to push for a bigger stake in the sector, greater financial inclusion, including participating in the mainline economy and the formation of women’s banks and other financial instruments.

· Government, public and private procurement to empower women and youth SMMEs, along the value chains of businesses. Across Africa, public procurement represents about 15% of GDP; and in South Africa more than 25% of GDP.  This means that it has important role in leveraging social and economic outcomes and objectives.

· Women using their power as consumers to support each other. Globally, according to Forbes Magazine, women drive over 70% of consumer purchasing, buying on behalf of others in their households (husbands, children, elderly).  We must use this power to push for the empowerment of women entrepreneurs.

Ladies and Gentlemen

As we therefore consider practical strategies and steps in each of these sectors, we must be organized as women. I know that in the different professions - as accountants, fund managers, lawyers, business and so forth - women are organised.  To single out as an example of an organized professional structure AWCA (African Women Chartered Accountants) comes to mind. When women are organized its easier for them to network and share information.  It is therefore no surprise that companies with the highest representation of women board members attain significantly higher financial performance than those with the lowest representation.

We must build alliances across sectors, so that we learn from each other, and our efforts have multiplier effects.

We must also ensure that we mentor younger men and women, because they are our future.

As a women’s movement, and business women in particular, we must ensure that we build a society where all South Africans are guaranteed the basic minimum for a decent living, and all our young men and women, provided the opportunities to reach their full potential. Levelling the playing fields with male counterparts is important. The issue of equal pay for equal work must be addressed with urgency.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Our theme of Firing with African Inspiration is particularly appropriate, as Africa is hard at work towards integration, peace, shared prosperity and a people centred continent through its Agenda 2063.

A continent with over a billion people, the majority of whom are young and female, with vast natural resources, it has a rich diversity and heritage, innovation and a can-do attitude, which will see more and more innovations coming from our continent.

Already we’ve seen consistent growth of 5% for nearly 15 years, growth in infrastructure expenditure, in industrialisation and in education and health.  These are positive signs for the future, and as part of the African continent, South Africa is part of these efforts.

We are therefore indeed fired with African inspiration, and we wish our sisters and brothers from the United States, a warm Mzansi welcome and stay.

I thank you.


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