Among the sustainable development challenges of the African continent, the topic of women’s inclusion in African economic systems is – in many ways – a central one.
In recent years, there have been some positive results regarding the economic integration of women on the African continent, as many countries have supported gender equality and women’s empowerment. Most countries have ratified the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women, known as the Maputo Protocol, as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In addition, many international organizations active on the continent, such as the United Nations, the French Development Agency, and the African Development Bank, are actively committed to this cause.
Nevertheless, progress toward gender equality are insufficient and too slow. At the current rate, it would take 142 years to achieve gender parity . Among the many problems faced by women in many African countries are unequal access to education, to essential goods en services, and frequent sexism and violence. In the economic sphere in particular, there is also a lack of capital for women entrepreneurs, a gender pay gap, a lack of diversity on the board and in management. This is true in many sectors and many countries.
At Amethis, we recognize that all these issues are key to the fair and sustainable development of the continent, and we have made improving the position of women in business a key issue in our strategy. This is highlighted by the signing of the 2X Challenge for our Amethis MENA Fund II, putting support for women’s economic integration at the heart of the investment activity. The “2X Challenge: Financing for Women” is an ambitious goal that requires investors to assist women progress as entrepreneurs, business leaders, employees and consumers of products and services that improve their economic participation.
We believe that our equity investments (whether majority or minority), sometimes combined with technical assistance services (set up jointly with partners), are powerful tools to enable us to contribute to this issue. Among the expected benefits of our intervention with our holdings, we can mention the increase in the proportion of women in the workforce of the companies in our portfolio, the increase in the proportion of women in the management bodies, or the improvement of women’s working conditions. This involves both the implementation of action plans dedicated to this subject for each new investment, and the investment into companies that are already doing well on these issues.
Partner at Amethis
“As an investment team, we consider the subject of women in business at all stages of the investment process. We start looking at the issue at the preliminary analysis stage, then focus on it during our due diligence, and develop a specific action plan that is tailored for each investment.”
Amethis’ investment in Tarjama (Jordan) is a good illustration of this gender lens approach. Founded in 2008 in Jordan, Tarjama is the leading language technology & services firm in the MENA region including translation, serving a large network of corporates across sectors such as consulting, technology, and government, etc.
Tarjama was founded by Nour Al-Hassan, a Jordanian woman entrepreneur who is passionate about women inclusion and empowerment. Since founding the company in 2008, Nour Al-Hassan has been the Chairwoman and CEO of Tarjama. The company has achieved gender parity with 51% of the company’s 177 employees being women. The firm also boasts a growing share of women in senior management e.g., Tarjama’s AI department is women-led with a majority of women employees. It has also built one of the largest networks of freelancer translators reaching around 5,000 translators, the majority of whom are women.
Tarjama founder and CEO
“Tarjama was built with the underlying idea of promoting women’s employment in the MENA region. We give our female employees flexibility so they can work from home, earn an income, and don’t have to be in an office. This allows our company to access an entire network of exceptionally talented women who are ready to challenge conventional norms.”
 McKinsey Global Institute, “The economic case for gender parity in Africa”, 2019