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Africa-wide dialogue on gender and the financial crisis opens in Accra

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 A three-day Africa-wide dialogue on ‘Gender, Africa and global financial and economic crisis’ began in the Ghanaian capital Accra, today, October 14.

Dr. Yao Graham, Coordinator of Third World Network-Africa (TWN-Af) organizers of the conference, in welcoming participants said the meeting was particularly important because of the deepening negative effects of crisis on African countries generally and women in particular.

The meeting, he said, is conceptualized to discuss not simply the short-term issues but also the long-term and more fundamental elements, reforms and changes that may be necessary to strengthen Africa’s ability to weather the current storm as well as strategically transform its economy into a robust and competitive one to serve the needs of Africa and its people especially women rather than external interests.

He observed that while there have been concerted Africa-wide efforts and proposals to deal with the crisis, most of these proposals have basically been about making demands for more aid, debt relief and deep cuts in social investment

Exactly a year after the financial crisis sunk its teeth into the global economy solutions proposed and adopted by African countries stand a high probability of further worsening the plight of Africa rather than resolve it.

The meeting comes in the wake of the resurgence of the WTO with a view to completing the stalled Doha Round of trade talks. The dialogue is thus expected to develop points of convergence and generate alternative policy proposals for Africa to make the most of the current crisis and insure the continent against future crises.

The three-day meeting will also assess the gendered impacts of the crisis with perspectives from West Africa and Asia; select Africa country experiences; the crisis and oil exporting countries; the crisis and agriculture; the food crisis and Madagascar’s experience of the new land grab and its gender implications.

Other thematic areas the three-day meeting will explore are responses from within the United Nations System; inter-governmental responses from Africa and assessment of these official responses.

University of Mauritius’ Sheila Bunwaree in an overview of the key issues of the crisis, Africa’s economies and gender, identified four fundamental transmission mechanisms and channels of the crisis to Africa. These are falling foreign direct investment (FDI), declining commodity prices (with huge implications for debt and debt-serving), diminishing remittances and dwindling aid flows.

Daniel Gbetnkom of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) observed that there is very little co-ordination among African country-specific responses to the crisis in a range of key areas including trade, financial monitoring and institutional policy among others.

African countries have taken a number of steps to deal with the crisis but finance constraints, Gbetnkrom said seem to limit the range of policies these countries could implement to offset the negative impacts of the global financial and economic crisis. Unlike Africa, the industrialized countries of the North have cushioned their economies with massive stimulus packages.

About forty feminists, academics, researchers, labour unionists, rights activists and journalists are attending the three-day dialogue.



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