Breaking Chains, Building Wealth: Why every African woman needs financial freedom for empowerment

Picture this: You’re in a cell, hands cuffed behind your back, and someone arrives to save you. However, they only unlock the cell without freeing your hands from the cuffs. It seems futile, doesn’t it? Similarly, discussing women’s liberation without equipping women with the necessary tools for their freedom is equally ineffective.

Women’s liberation is discussed with fiery passion and rightful indignation, reflecting a long history of subjugation whispered in hushed tones through the ages. As society progresses, we’re collectively recognising the futility and harm of subjugation, embracing instead the principles of equality and mutual respect. This evolution in thought and action marks a pivotal shift towards acknowledging and dismantling the deeply ingrained structures that have historically marginalised women. The journey towards true liberation is paved with the understanding that oppression serves no legitimate purpose and benefits no one. As we forge ahead, amplifying these discussions is crucial, ensuring they’re not merely echoes of the past but powerful catalysts for real and enduring change.

When we speak of liberation, it is essential to remember that no one can indeed be free without the tools they need for freedom. According to the World Bank, women’s empowerment involves removing the constraints that impede women and girls from realising their goals. The World Bank classifies these constraints into three main pillars.


Agency refers to an individual’s ability to set goals and take action to achieve them, demonstrating a sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem. When someone exhibits agency, they have clear objectives and the motivation and determination to pursue those goals actively.


Resources refer to the various inputs available to individuals that enable them to make decisions and take action to achieve their goals. These inputs include tangible assets such as capital, equipment, tools, and facilities and intangible assets such as knowledge, skills, and information.


Context refers to the broader environment or setting where decision-making occurs, encompassing the various institutions, social arrangements, norms, and structures that shape individual and collective behaviour.

Financial empowerment must first be considered to empower any individual, especially women. Economic empowerment allows women to control their finances, make autonomous decisions, and explore possibilities for socioeconomic development.

The power of economics

According to an article by Business Day, only 35%  of Nigerian women between the ages of 15 and 49 are in possession of a bank account, with many women citing their reason as “not having a stable income.”

While speaking to Efe Ukala, the CEO of ImpactHer for #MCNWorkLife, she emphasised financial freedom as the first way to lead women to liberation. As a private equity lawyer at Wall Street, Efe has had the opportunity to visit various sub-Saharan African countries. In her journeys, she discovered the gender disparity in business ownership.

“Companies primarily led by men are considered for investment, while women-owned businesses were prevalent in the markets. This realisation led me to conduct further research, uncovering a significant gender financing gap estimated at $42 billion by the IFC.”

According to Efe, women’s businesses significantly contribute to the African economy. Even though women make up 70% of the workforce in the agricultural sector, barely up to 20% of women own the lands they work on.

“When I ventured into the bustling markets, I saw primarily women. They were the heart and soul of these vibrant marketplaces. Yet, when I entered the corporate world, particularly while seeking investment opportunities, I found predominantly men in leadership roles. The few women I encountered were often relegated to serving tea and biscuits or handling cleaning duties.”

Based on Efe’s research, African women are large contributors to the economy but remain subjugated by patriarchal principles, laws, and expectations from society.

With the $42 billion gender financing gap in Africa, we can say that African women are financially subjugated, and liberation is not possible until every woman can sustain herself and her family independently.

Financial freedom: a catalyst for liberation

Financial freedom is a core element of economic empowerment, allowing individuals to make decisions without being limited by their financial situation. For African women, achieving financial freedom is crucial for various reasons.

1. It allows them to advocate for their rights and contribute actively to their communities and societies.

2. Financial freedom empowers African women to make choices that align with their goals and values without relying on others for financial support.

3. By controlling their finances, women can lift themselves and their families out of poverty, creating opportunities for a better future.

4. Financial freedom is particularly crucial for African women, allowing them to assert their independence and autonomy.

How can we liberate the African woman?

Financial liberation for African women can be achieved through systemic changes, targeted interventions, and individual empowerment efforts. Here are some key strategies:

Access to Education and Skills Training

Ensuring African women access high-quality education and skills training is critical for increasing their employability and earning potential. Women who receive an education are better equipped to negotiate the labour market, construct sustainable livelihoods, and contribute to economic growth and development in their communities.

Promoting economic opportunities

Creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and economic participation is essential for African women’s financial liberation. Governments and organisations can support them by providing access to capital, business resources, and mentorship programs.

Addressing Gender Inequality in the Workplace

Achieving financial liberation for African women requires eliminating gender-based discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities in the workforce. This entails implementing policies to guarantee equal pay, remove barriers to career progression, and promote women’s leadership representation.

Improving Access to Financial Services

Improving access to financial services like banking, savings accounts, credit, and insurance can empower African women to manage their finances effectively and plan for their futures. Innovative solutions such as mobile banking and microfinance can address barriers to financial inclusion and reach marginalised communities.

Providing Social Protection and Safety Nets

Implementing social protection programs, like cash transfer schemes and social insurance, offers African women a safety net during economic challenges. These initiatives safeguard women and their families from poverty, fostering financial stability and resilience.

Promoting Financial Literacy and Empowerment

Financial literacy programs and initiatives can empower African women by providing them with the knowledge and skills to make informed financial decisions. With enhanced financial literacy, women can effectively manage their resources, plan for the future, and navigate intricate financial systems.

Challenging Societal Norms and Gender Stereotypes

Overcoming entrenched societal norms and gender stereotypes is crucial to achieving financial liberation for women. This involves challenging traditional gender roles, advocating for women’s rights and empowerment, and cultivating a culture of gender equality and inclusivity.

Economics and financial independence are critical to achieving emancipation and gender equality among African women. When governments, corporations, and civil society engage in women’s economic empowerment, they help African women reach their full potential, enabling inclusive growth, sustainable development, and a bright future for everyone.


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