South Africa’s telecom giant MTN signs UN women empowerment principles to advance gender equality in Africa

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Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

South Africa’s mobile telecommunications giant, MTN Group, has signed the United Nations Women Empowerment Principles to advance gender equality and empower women.

Headquartered in Johannesburg, MTN Group Limited, formerly M-Cell, is a South Africa multinational mobile telecommunications company operating in Africa and the Middle East.

Launched in 1994, MTN describes itself as “a leading emerging market operator with a clear vision to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our 244 million customers in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East”.

The UN Empowerment Principles, signed at MTN’s International Women’s Day event, provide guidance on how businesses in all sectors can advance and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

In a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C. on Friday, MTN Group said it “purposefully operates to ensure that everyone deserves the benefit of a modern connected life”, adding that to guarantee this, “the Group strives to ensure that men and women benefit equally from ICT thereby assisting to reduce inequalities that exist across its footprint”.

According to the multi-billion dollar company which operates from South to West Africa and elsewhere, “Gender Empowerment is a key strategic component of MTN’s Corporate Social Investment across its footprint. Significant contributions have been towards the empowerment and development of girls and women in the countries in which we operate. Initiatives include enabling access to ICT and building capacity of girls and women in coding, robotics, programming and computer assembling”.

According to the GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report 2019, women in low- and middle-income countries are 10% less likely than men to own a mobile device, and 23% less likely to make use of the internet, as compared to their male counterparts.  

“MTN Group commits itself fully to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, as this has the capability to transform lives across the continent and beyond,” said Rob Shuter, MTN President and CEO, MTN Group. “If the mobile gender gap is not addressed, women risk being left behind as societies and economies digitise. Importantly, we are honoured to be part of the pledge, which also supports African Union’s focus on driving women’s financial and economic inclusion, gender-based violence and accountability to global gender commitments,” he added.

The company said “through this pledge and strategic partnerships, MTN intends to meaningfully respond to barriers that arise from ICT and address inequalities that hinder girls and women from fully participating in and benefiting from the bold, new digital world. And to ensure girls and women have the necessary skills and knowledge to understand, develop content, participate in and benefit fully from ICTs and their applications.

“MTN commends the deliberate commitment made by the African Union to bridge the gender gap on the continent. We share the view that women should be enabled to play a meaningful role in developing our continent”.

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