Sustainable Agriculture in Africa: Empowering Women

On June 8, the Global Policy Institute and Bay Atlantic University, in partnership with Bahcesehir University, CIFAL Istanbul and The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), held another event within its series on Sustainable Agriculture in Africa titled: Empowering Women

 Full Video:

Event Summary

Long known as the earth’s breadbasket, Africa holds 60% of the world’s remaining arable land.  With abundant sunshine, plentiful rainfall, and fertile soil, the potential to create millions of rural-based inclusive jobs, improve yields and quality, expand exports, and ultimately achieve food and nutritional security across the Continent and beyond is real.  However, due to a wide variety of reasons, women, who happen to supply a significant portion of the labor required to grow, harvest, and process food, are often disadvantaged. In most African countries, they have unequal access to land, credit, resources, training, and decision making.  Furthermore, when it comes to planning, setting priorities, budgeting, and leadership in agricultural research and development, women are heavily underrepresented.  In short, over 50% of women in Africa are engaged in agriculture but they rarely have the opportunity to own, manage, and fully profit from their labor. The playing (and paying) field is certainly not level.

The three experts discussed one of the most noted and urgent challenges to realizing Africa’s agricultural potential; namely, helping women (as well as youth and other vulnerable groups) move from subsistence to commercial farming.  Ivana Osagie, the Founder and CEO of PWR Advisory, spoke about some of the main challenges facing women, including but not limited to access to finance, inputs, training, and technical assistance.  She discussed a few very successful agribusinesses run by women who have successfully overcome the traditional gender-based barriers. Mary Afan, the President of the Small-scale Women’s Farmers organization of Nigeria (SWOFAN) echoed Ivana by emphasizing both social/culture norms as well as economic factors as they impediments on the way to business success for women farmers.  Examples included access to and control of the land they work on, not being represented in policy or other public sector discussions, and the impact of Covid-19.  Tucci Ivowi concluded the session. Tucci is the CEO of the Ghana Commodity Exchange (GCX) which serves as a platform for small, medium, and large enterprises, including individual smallholder farmers. Via this platform, they can store, sell or purchase agricultural commodities.  Because the platform, akin to Amazon and eBay, is user friendly, effective, and efficient, she is seeing more and more women and youth engaging in agriculture as a sustainable and profitable business opportunity.

By the end of the session, these key points emerged. 1) Women represent the majority of Africa’s farm labor. 2) If they had access to the tools and technology required to work their small holdings more efficiently, they have the interest and ability to be profitable and scale up. 3) The main constraint inhibiting their increased involvement is access to, and control of, land and land-related resources, including inputs, mechanization, storage, credit facilities, and a voice in government to help craft an enabling environment that is more conducive and inclusive.

The GPI/BAU Sustainable Agriculture in Africa webinar series is organized and directed by Dr. Adam Saffer, President of Gateway Development International. Adam brings over 30 years of international development experience in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.


Ivana Osagie, Founder, PWR

Osagie is a widely respected diversity and inclusion expert, is the Founder of PWR, a leading African diversity and inclusion consultancy and advocacy firm. She leverages her deep networks in corporate, government, philanthropic, and non-profit circles to accelerate gender equality and help organizations build their female talent pools. As a certified diversity and inclusion practitioner, Ms. Osagie supports institutions in maximizing the benefits of diversity and inclusion to increase business performance and profitability. She also coaches women on executive presence and leadership to optimize their visibility in today’s competitive business landscape.

Ms. Osagie has more than 25 years of experience as a C-suite executive and corporate strategist, spanning agriculture, energy, investments and consulting. She has previously held senior roles in the UK and Nigeria at PA Consulting, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and HSBC and, more recently, at Notore Chemical Industries, a publicly listed Nigerian company (revenues of US$100M and 100 full time employees) where she served as the Director for Corporate Development and Strategic Projects.  A member of the Institute of Directors, Ms. Osagie sits on several boards including Rising Tide Africa (a network of female angel investors), Prime Logistics., and Amayi Foods, where she is Board Chair. She is also an Advisory Board Member of Aruwa Capital, a growth equity impact fund with a gender lens, and a Trustee of the Friends of Benin Museum.   Ms. Osagie holds an MBA from the University of Liverpool, an MSc from the University of the West of England, and a certification in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University. She is also an alumna of INSEAD’s Advanced Management Program.

Tucci Ivowi, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Commodity Exchange

She is an experienced business leader with over 20 years’ experience in marketing and general business management in the UK and emerging markets of Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

With her background in managing businesses across the coffee and cocoa value chains, in 2018 she was engaged by the Government of Ghana as part of a team tasked to establish the Ghana Commodity Exchange, becoming its founding Deputy CEO.

Prior to this, Tucci was a Business Executive Officer (Executive Director) for Nestle Central & West Africa Region. During her 15 years with Nestle, she worked in various roles including Managing Director, Marketing Communications Director, and Business Unit Director managing businesses and teams across 22 countries.

Tucci is a Chartered Marketer and Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM UK) and her professional qualifications include executive education in Leadership from London Business School. She holds a BA in Political Science and French from the University of Sussex and an MBA from Warwick University, both in the UK, as well as a Political Science Degree from the Higher Institute of Political Studies, in Aix-En-Provence, France.

Mary Afan, CEO, Small Scale Women Farmers Organization of Nigeria (SWOFON)

Mary Afan is the President of the Small Scale Women Farmers Organization of Nigeria (SWOFON) and doubles as the Vice Chair of the Rural Women Farmers Forum (RWFF). Earlier on, she was an Ex-Officio member of the platform for years. She never missed an opportunity to speak up to advocate for the rights of smallholder women farmers. A farmer for more than 15 years from Plateau state, North Central Nigeria, Mary Afan experienced firsthand the ethno-religious conflict that affected the very source of livelihood for small farmers. She made it her priority to promote the cause of underprivileged women, while stopping all forms of discrimination against women. Such discrimination makes women unproductive and dependent. Mary Afan is married with children. They are very supportive of her work. In an effort to shed light on the cause of women small farmers, Mary was among the few who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and reached the peak. This was a symbolic gesture to advocate for the right of women farmers to gain access and control of land and resources in Africa. When not involved in farming, Mary focuses on advocating for the rights of smallholder women farmers by bringing up the issues and challenges that affect their productivity and sources of livelihood, while demanding effective government action to address them.


Adam Saffer, CEO, Gateway Development International

Adam Saffer is the CEO of Gateway Development International, a boutique impact investment and consulting firm focused on frontier and emerging markets. He is an international business and development professional with over 35 years’ experience managing private companies and donor funded programs in frontier and emerging markets. He has designed, managed, and evaluated scores of projects with the past decade being focused on agriculture.  He started his career in Africa with Schlumberger Limited and later moved into the economic development sector. He has deep experience in developing partnerships and strategic alliances, designing and delivering capacity building training and technical assistance, behavioral science and creating rural jobs, with a strong emphasis on the environment and women and youth empowerment. He is known for building, leading, and inspiring teams and turning around under-performing projects and companies in dynamic, political, and complex cross-cultural environments. Adam works closely with host country governments, trade associations, NGOs/CSOs, and private companies. He has an extensive global network and excellent analytical and communication skills. Adam holds a Mechanical Engineering degree (Cornell University) and an MBA (Harvard Business School). He serves on the Board of the Global Policy Institute in Washington, DC.

Welcoming remarks

Paolo von Schirach, President Global Policy Institute and Chair Political Science and International Relations, Bay Atlantic University