Empowering Women in Africa’s Agricultural Sector: Insights from Africa Women Leaders Forum and WAYA Awards


African women leaders and entrepreneurs are making significant strides in transforming the continent’s agricultural landscape, addressing challenges, and championing gender equality. The Africa Women Leaders Forum, held as part of the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2023, provided a platform for female leaders to discuss pressing issues and advocate for women’s voices in shaping the future of Africa’s agriculture. 

One of the speakers, Ndidi Nwuneli, Co-founder and Executive Chair of Sahel Consulting & AGRA Board Member, emphasized the need for African women to have a global platform. She stated, “We want to help more African women to get on global platforms and tell positive stories about women. We have to make ourselves more aware of the opportunities that exist in African agriculture.”

The changing dynamic of gender roles in agriculture was a prevalent theme during the forum. Decades ago, men and women in Africa’s agricultural sector were equally represented. However, today, women, particularly in countries like Tanzania, have become the primary food producers, accounting for about 80% of the agricultural workforce. The shift toward women’s dominance in agriculture has presented new opportunities, especially with the emergence of a one-trillion-dollar food market across Africa.

Despite this opportunity, several challenges persist. Access to finance remains a significant obstacle for women in agriculture, limiting their ability to seize emerging market opportunities fully. Additionally, the lack of access to vital market information inhibits women’s participation in lucrative sectors.

Sara Mbago-Bhunu, Director of the East and Southern Africa Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), highlighted the multifaceted role of women in agriculture. She stated, “Women are caregivers, but they are also economic agents.

A key point emphasized during the forum was the importance of enabling women to scale up their agribusinesses. While women dominate primary production and retail, they are often underrepresented in logistics, processing, and trade roles. Encouraging more women to take ownership of these segments is crucial for advancing gender equity in the agricultural value chain.

Government intervention and legislation were identified as essential drivers of change. Addressing outdated family codes that restrict women’s mobility and economic empowerment emerged as a priority. Governments were urged to revisit these codes to ensure they support women’s economic activities and generational wealth.

Positive masculinity was another significant topic of discussion. Encouraging men to actively support women’s economic empowerment and leadership roles is vital. Gender equality is not a battle between the sexes; it is about creating wealth together and fostering an environment where everyone benefits.

The Africa Women Leaders Forum also highlighted the critical role of technology in advancing gender equality in agriculture. The adoption of digital platforms can simplify risk assessment for lenders, improve access to finance for smallholder farmers, and enhance the monetization of women’s contributions in the sector. By profiling women-owned assets and entrepreneurship, financial institutions can realize that women are reliable borrowers who can contribute significantly to agricultural development.

The forum concluded with a call to action for increased collaboration and mentorship among women in agriculture, as well as efforts to amplify women’s voices on the global stage. It was emphasized that women’s empowerment in agriculture is not only a matter of equity but also a pathway to achieving sustainable development and economic growth across the African continent.

In conjunction with the Africa Women Leaders Forum, the VALUE4HER Women Agripreneurs of the Year Awards (WAYA) recognized outstanding African female agripreneurs. These women have excelled in various agricultural value chains, contributing positively to food security, climate resilience, and women and youth empowerment. The awards aim to create visibility for women agripreneurs, inspire innovation, and serve as a catalyst for women’s participation in agribusiness.

The grand prize winner of the WAYA Awards was Siny Samba, CEO of Le Lionceau from Senegal. Other notable awardees included Bernice Dapaah, CEO of Bright Generation Community Foundation, Maryanne Ruguru Gichanga, Director of AgriTech Analytics, and Lucy Chioma Aniagolu, Founder of Agrodemy.

These women exemplify the spirit of innovation, resilience, and leadership in Africa’s agricultural sector. Their achievements and contributions serve as a testament to the progress made and the immense potential for women in the agricultural value chain.