Global Perspectives | Salon | 30. March 2021

Strong Women – Strong Economies

Increasing Women’s Financial Inclusion in Africa

In 1995, the Beijing Platform for Action resulted in a visionary and groundbreaking agenda on how to remove systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation across all areas of life – including the economy. Progress, however, has been modest at best and more than twenty-five years later, no country is even close to delivering on the commitments made. New challenges continuously emerge and the COVID-19 pandemic is now threatening to reverse decades of collective effort with its disproportionate impact on women. Therefore, as the world is looking for ways out of the crisis and devising strategies to build back better, accelerating women’s financial inclusion and economic equity must be front and center.

Though women operating outside the formal financial system is a worldwide phenomenon, with over 1.3 billion women globally lacking access to financial products and services, the situation is especially severe in Africa where more than 70 percent of women are financially excluded. A McKinsey Global Institute study estimates that better serving women as customers of financial services and fully incorporating women into the economy would add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025 – a tremendous opportunity for growth and innovation.

So how can we ensure a gender smart, inclusive and sustainable recovery in Europe, Africa and beyond? What are the most significant systemic and structural barriers faced by women that limit their access to financial services and how can we overcome them? What needs to be done to ensure that necessary framework conditions and regulations are in place? And as the old, analog financial system is being replaced by a digital one, what opportunities do new technologies, such as mobile money and crypto currencies, offer for women in low- and middle-income countries?

We discussed these important questions in more detail with our outstanding speakers at our GP Salon on the occasion of the launch of the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico (29-31 March 2021), a global civil society event that aims to mobilize for urgent action towards gender parity and to increase concrete engagement for women’s economic equality and rights.


  • Dorothee Bär, MP and Minister of State for Digitization at the Federal Chancellery of Germany
  • Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the UN’s Business and Sustainable Development Commission
  • Scheaffer Okore, Senior Strategy and Policy Advisor, Goalkeepers Advisory Board Member at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Obama Foundation's Africa Leader
  • Dr Christina Tewes-Gradl, Founder & Managing Director of Endeva, former Strategy Consultant at McKinsey and Re-search Fellow at the CSR Initiative of the Harvard Kennedy School


  • Christine Mhundwa, Anchor & Correspondent, Deutsche Welle (DW)

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