The state of women in African politics

In 2014, there were three African female presidents. Now there is one. Mozambique’s former Prime Minister Luísa Diogo and Malawi’s president Joyce Banda are no longer calling the shots in their countries. However, powerful women like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are still active in their countries or representing their countries to the world.

Rwanda’s legislatures reserve seats for women; Senegal has done the same with their parity law from 2012. If we look more generally at the situation for women parliamentarians, it has improved since 1995: 11% of parliamentarians were female then, compared to 22% today. And sub-Saharan Africa’s 23.1 percent of women parliamentarians is better than the Arab world, at 18.4 percent, but dwarfed by Nordic women parliamentarians, who stand at 41.1 percent.

In Africa, there are cultural obstacles to women achieving their full potential. As Penda Mbow, a Senegalese presidential adviser, said to Voice of America, "Parity laws [like in Senegal] may be one tool but they are not enough. We also need to fix what goes on inside political parties and let capable, promising women emerge naturally so that when they are promoted, no one can say they got special treatment.”

Fempo, short for female politicians (but also Female Power & Potential), strives to change this state of affairs.  A networking platform for female politicians in Africa, FemPo.net will connect African women in elected office with their constituents and with each other.  It will also allow for donations to particular politicians’ campaigns. The network will start in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but will branch out to central Africa, eventually embracing Africa’s Anglophone, Francophone, and Lusophone countries.  Although the DR Congo’s women face enormous obstacles, Internet access is more widespread than it appears. Moreover, female politicians there as elsewhere, are ambitious, creative, and eager to serve their communities and country.

Fempo intends to empower women who are already active in their nations.  African politics tend to be populated and dominated by men and outright zero-sum attitudes prevail. Very often women have to finance their own campaigns without their political

Edher Numbi