West African Business Leaders Stepping It Up for Gender Equality

Date: Thursday, October 15, 2015

Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
The world’s wealthiest woman of African descent, media mogul and most promising entrepreneur of Mali joined 60 global Business Leaders and Philanthropists to close the gender investment gap.
On 26 September 2015, UN Women, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Alibaba Group of China co-chaired a high-level Breakfast Forum for top global leaders in business and philanthropy. The Forum was held at UN Women’s headquarters in New York in the margins of the Seventieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly during which Member States adopted a new global development agenda.

Achieving gender equality is fundamental to realizing the transformative promise of the historic 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. However, deep financing gaps hinder progress for women and girls. To face this important challenge, UN Women called upon game-changing leaders to join the movement in unleashing the gender dividend. The Forum provided business and philanthropic leaders a unique platform to actively collaborate and support the work of UN Women and its vision of Planet 50-50 by 2030.

Ms. Folorunsho Alakija (Nigeria) attending UN Women Breakfast Forum. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Ms. Folorunsho Alakija (Nigeria) attending UN Women Breakfast Forum. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Over 60 participants representing more than 30 companies and about 10 foundations responded to UN Women’s call and pledged approximately USD 20 Million to close the gender investment gap. As co-hosts of the Forum, Jack Yun Ma, Executive Chair of the Alibaba Group and Melinda Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Gates Foundation announced respectively USD 5 million and USD 1 million contributions to boost funding for gender equality and women’s empowerment. West African Business Leaders including Folorunsho Alakija, who is ranked the world’s

wealthiest woman of African descent1, Mamadou Coulibaly, the Malian media mogul and Diadie Sankare, one of Mali’s most successful and promising entrepreneurs, joined their voices to finance gender based initiatives and help mend the inequality gap. Ms Alakija signed the commitment board and held a private meeting with UN Women’s Executive Director where she made her commitment to actively participate in the area of girls' education and IT.

Madina Tall Coulibaly and Mamadou Coulibaly (Mali) announcing their pledge and commitment. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Madina Tall Coulibaly and Mamadou Coulibaly (Mali) announcing their pledge and commitment. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
A strong advocate of women’s economic empowerment, Mr. Coulibaly accompanied by his wife and business partner, Madina Tall, pledged USD 1 million to expand women’s economic opportunities: “I have companies with almost 100% female staff, I witnessed first-hand women’s abilities, they are great leaders. I believe strongly in the economic empowerment of women, which I think is the key to open all other opportunities. Women are great workers with exceptional leadership skills, reason why in some of my companies. I did not hesitate to give all critical managerial positions to women.”

Diadie Sankare (Mali) signing the commitment board. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Diadie Sankare (Mali) signing the commitment board. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
While announcing his USD 0.5 million contribution, Mr. Diadie Sankare personally committed himself to promote gender equality: “I remain available to advocate and engage my fellow businessmen to support UN Women efforts. I thank UN WOMEN for the opportunity that has been given to me, it adds meaning to my being, helping women is helping humanity, something I do naturally without asking and expecting any recognition. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of a bigger and more formal support system to empower women.

Other African Business and philanthropy leaders attending the event included James Mwangi, the CEO of the Kenya-based Equity Bank, SK Macharia, founder of Royal Media Services in Kenya, and Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, Chairperson of Kalagadi Management (South Africa). Representatives of international corporations such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Cisco, Infosys, Sun Media Group, Mastercard, H&M, Citibank, the Ford Foundation and General Electric Foundation were also present.

Following the Forum, global Business Leaders were invited to join the Friends of UN Women’s Group, a private group that will support UN Women in achieving SDG #5: Gender Equality for all women and girls.