Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The need for developing countries to catch up economically with the rest of the world, is at the heart of the 2030 agenda. For many years, these countries have been left behind, as economies in other parts of the world have been growing. What's more, women have not been seen as agents for economic growth.
It is vital that these countries generate real hope for a better future for their people, but how? And how can we support them?
We are moving away from aid as the main instrument; rather seeking to promote investment.
Access to decent work is a key factor for poverty reduction. This means that private sector development and sustainable economic growth are crucial.
Increased workforce participation results in better living conditions, economic growth, and higher levels of productivity and social integration. It helps people develop skills, strengthens gender equality – when women are included in working life –, and has a stabilizing effect on society as a whole.
A central task is to create a sound framework and a conducive climate that attracts private investors and enables governments to borrow money at reasonable rates and invest it safely in infrastructure development.
The G20 dialogue process, in which Norway now is an observer, is developing 'Compacts with Africa' to improve infrastructure and increase private investment in Africa. The objective is to start a process of generating jobs, especially young women and men. If we fail to do so, even more people will look elsewhere for opportunities and migrate in even greater numbers.
We need to move away from ‘big talk and small projects’ and start thinking on a scale that will transform peoples’ lives. There is a substantial amount of private capital in the world, but in order for it to find its way to developing countries, certain conditions have to be met:
Vital infrastructure and access to electricity need to be in place. Just as important are a predictable and long-term framework for doing business, legal assurances and a competent workforce.
The Norwegian Government has recently presented a new action plan for women’s rights and gender equality in foreign and development policy. This action plan sets out that we will promote full economic rights for women and their participation in the workforce on equal terms to men.
Norway will support targeted efforts to reduce political, economic, legal and other structural obstacles to women’s participation in the private sector. And we will seek to ensure that women’s rights and the gender perspective are integrated into the overall efforts to promote private sector development.
So how should we move forward to reach our goals?
To achieve maximum development impact, it is important that aid triggers further investments and other initiatives. Creating an enabling environment for the private sector is crucial. It is the authorities in developing countries that have the main responsibility for this, and they are in the best position to address challenges at the national level.
Norfund is an investment tool for Norway’s efforts to promote private sector development and job creation in developing countries.
Provisions on non-discrimination are included in all investment agreements.
Norfund is also developing its own action plan for gender equality. For example, companies that Norfund invests in will be able to apply for funding to enable qualified women employees to take part in the Female Future programme of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Access to electricity is critical for economic growth, job creation and social development. Norfund invests in electricity generation projects where the need for capital is large. Clean energy is Norfund’s largest business area and constitutes about half of its portfolio.
A well-functioning financial system facilitates economic growth and reduces poverty. Providing access to capital through financial institutions, microfinance and SME funds is the Norfund’s second priority sector.
Agriculture is its third priority sector. This sector employs approximately half of Africa’s workforce – not least women – and plays an important role in the continent’s economy and development. Agricultural growth can drive overall economic growth and transformation, and has proved effective in reducing poverty in low-income countries.
I wanted to share some of the tools we use, in order to illustrate that gender responsive investments comes in different forms.
We must continue to make our aid to the economic sectors more gender responsive. We must build partnerships with the private sector.
And we must once and for all get rid of the notion that women, jobs, economy does not fit together. This event is surely a proof of the opposite.