Why is SADC obsessed with 50/50 gender representation?

Sadc Gender Alliance Governance Cluster Meeting

As black Africans we like to talk about our problems as coming from slavery, colonialism and racism/apartheid. We never like to talk about why we were enslaved in the first place. We never want to go far back in time and discuss why it is that Europeans could invent guns and ships and come over to us while we only had managed to invent bows and arrows.

At some point in history black folks were weak enough to be enslaved and colonized by other races. After all, you can only enslave a person who is weaker than you. If you believe, as I do, that all people were created with equal intelligence then it means that at some point in history we black people were so distracted by some trivia while our white colleagues were busy inventing guns and ships. That missed moment resulted in us being eventually enslaved and colonized.

I was reminded of this recently when the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) resolved to once again commit to 50/50 gender representation in the very near future. This means that every government in the SADC region will soon be forced to have 50% men and 50% women at all levels – executive, legislature and judiciary branches.

As usual there was a lot of jubilation and self-congratulatory among SADC leaders. This 50/50 representation was taunted as a solution to Africa’s developmental problems.

But wait a minute! Why is 50/50 gender representation important? Where in the world can we find a country which transformed itself from poverty to riches through 50/50 gender representation? Is this not just yet another trivia we black folks are distracting ourselves with instead of concentrating on finding real solutions and getting highly qualified people from among us to implement those policies?

There is no country in the world that solved its problems through 50/50 gender representation. In fact history shows the opposite. Successful nations are those that simply put emphasis on identifying and using the most qualified people from among them. The United States of America, the most powerful and richest nation ever to exist has not come to these levels through 50/50 gender representation. The same is true with China, arguably the second largest and powerful economy of the world.

In spite of stereotypes in the western media, Africa is already far ahead of most developed nations in gender representation. At the executive level, most SADC countries have had women vice presidents or president. Compare that with the United States where for more than 200 hundred years of its existence no woman has ever been president or vice president. This trend is set to continue for at least the next 4-8 years. China, Russia, Japan and France do not have a good record in that area either. In its hundreds of years of existence, Britain has only had one female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

The representation of women in cabinets of most SADC countries is already higher than in the current US administration. The percentage of women in most African parliaments is higher than in the US Senate. Rwanda, an African country, has the highest representation of women in parliament in the whole world. In SADC countries, women account for more than 20% of boardroom executives of the largest companies. Compare that to just over 10% in Fortune 500 companies of the United States.

If equal gender representation is the magic bullet that transforms countries from poverty to riches then Africa should already be the most powerful and richest continent of the world ahead of the Americas and Europe.

There is no question that this misguided idea of 50/50 gender representation is being pushed by South Africa. South Africa has sadly become an entitlement state. It is no longer a merit-based society. People feel entitled to certain positions in government not because they are qualified but simply because they belong to a certain gender or race. Such misguided affirmative action mentality can have dire consequences.

We have recently watched with horror as South African police fire live bullets on largely unarmed civilians killing multitudes. One cannot help but wonder how much of this terrible and unprofessional act by police could have been a result of misguided affirmative action. Could it be that in a haste to have an ‘equal’ South African society most who are not qualified have been placed in the higher ranks of police?

We know which nations will be powerful and rich in the world of tomorrow. They are the nations that are today busy mastering and innovating any of the following three fields: information technology, robotics and alternative energy. SADC is geographically well positioned to take lead in alternative energy research. The region sits in one of the most abundant sunshine areas of the world. Unfortunately SADC is barely taking steps to utilize this advantage. When was the last time a SADC summit emphasized on information technology, robotics and alternative energy? When was the last time SADC set strong guidelines prioritizing research in any of these three fields? Never! Instead we get distracted and waste too much time on these far-left unproven ideologies like 50/50 gender representation.

History seems to be repeating itself. While our forebears were being distracted by whatever trivia they were involved in, their white counterparts were busy inventing guns and ships. These guns and ships gave them enough power to eventually enslave and colonize us. Today, hundreds of years later, we still have not learned the lesson. Here we are once again being distracted by such trivia as 50/50 gender representation while the powerful of tomorrow are busy inventing information technology, robotics and alternative energy.

I wonder what excuse a SADC black person 400 years from today will give for his race’s backward condition.

Ad Astra!

9 Responses to "Why is SADC obsessed with 50/50 gender representation?"

  1. johnM  August 29, 2012 at 10:49 am

    People must attain their positions on merit and not on other non essential qualities such as their sex, colour of skin, place of origin, etc…etc..

    When people are attain their position based on other qualities other than merit, you end up having people of low calibre at the helm and things deteriorate. It is no secret that Africa is the poorest and least progressive region in the world because the people at the helm of various African nations are people of low calibre.

    Everytime I hear Joyce Banda speak, I always wonder where she is taking us to. Clearly she is not up to the job.

  2. Adebayo Yaya  August 26, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    It’ has been ages since this isssue of encouraging and promoting women to take up leading position has been going on. And we know that it has not been completely effected simply bcos everyone apreciates that we can just put anyone anywhere. If pple are talking of 50/50 target its being simply put as goal for one ambitious plan.

    I think its unfair to suggest because there has bn such a proposal then African gvts will straight away just put anyone in such leading position. Already there’s bn an out cry when JB just came into power that she has not been promoting her fellow women in such positions which means it can not be an overnight acheivement what I am not comfortable with is that just after having this proposal put forward we have this kind of comments as if it has bn garanteed that the 50/50 share will be immedeately effected.

    Even looking at other SADC countrys the same parten follows. The call for equitable power sharing has bn there for ages and its not going to be completed today. I am simply not comfortable with the way it has been used in the argument, you can even check from the other comments.

  3. John Bulaundi  August 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I think you miss the point completely. The author is not saying women cannot be leaders. He is arguing for merit. And that seems fair and reasonable to me. To progress as Africans we need to focus on merit and not the so called quota or affirmative action.

  4. Adebayo Yaya  August 26, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    (………cnt) their men simply cant accept the idea of being headed by women, same old patriach mentality. I dont understand how being lead by a woman can slow any developmental progress, you mean once a woman elected in power all men will subotage her leadership by holding back any acheivement that wld be made during their term. After all its not president who ivents and discover things. The one who changes is only the leader but all the citizens remain the same. You r really exhibting sexist tendancies which I dont think they are fair for our country continent and world at large. If some white pple somewhere decide to persue some questionable attitude towards things wld you just follow them because they r white and doing it?

    So today you decide to concur with the west bcos its something that favours you as a man?

    The west together with the wolrd at large indeed women r fighting to make headways in the leadership cirlcles if somewhere they have not yet done it, it doesnt meant they will never do it. In Asia there have already bn several success storys, just a rminder, Thailand, indonesian pakistan, India, Phillipines the list is long. And in south America the countrys that have once forwarded women president are not that poor and backward as you purpote, Brazil and Argentina are just an example of those who once had female leaders. In Europe German ukraine UK have once had female leadrs so what’s your problem? If you have problems with President Joyce Banda dont make it a problem with every woman.

    (Sorry the other post was accidentally posted before editing am w shld be able to read and see wht was supposed to be written)

  5. Adebayo Yaya  August 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    GentleMen what is this all article and debate all about? Esp. what dyou want to acheive by fowarding arguments like this in this modern day? Dyou have sisters and daughters you men?

    First and foremost its a world wide fact we live in a patriachal society not in Europe Asia America or Africa, but its all over. Its a fact that a woman can become anything, u name it an eengineer, Doctor Austronout a miner a soldier and what have you. Excluding women on the basis of just being woman is not just at all. Yet each one os us here that alot of men have reached where ever they are because somehow a womans potential had to be compromised for a mans betterment cos we lived and still live in a patriachal world the world that is biased against men.

    To prove a point and a womans capability there’s now higher female’s enrollement in the American university today than ever before and this is actaully also turning into a cause for concern in there community and you imagine if this trend ever continues for the next 20 to 50 yrs what will be yr excuse for a woman not to occupy or hold/do a challenging position/job? Cedric pls do not embarrass me , yr artcle reads more of a sexist than something objective.

    The reason they dont favour women readers in all those countrys its not bcos women can be successful its simply because they still habour all those primitive and Iron age beliefs. Not because they dont have capable woman. Even their most accomplished women cryfowl they do face these stiff resentments and glasscelling just because their men cant just accept the idea of being he

    • Adebayo Yaya  August 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm


      ……yet each one of us here know that alot ofmen…………live in a patriachal world that is baised against women………

      ….the reason they dont favour women leaders……..its not bcos women cant be successful…..

  6. Tinkanena  August 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Democracy is expensive guys! If say all eligible voters in Malawi choose male parliamentarians in 2014 will we be punished for not achieving 50/50 representation at this level of decision making? Let people decide the proportions through democratic and not radical processes. After all God’s cabinet and executive does not have that representation…zadziko izi tizingoziyang’anani. Ndalamazo alibe nazo zochita mabungwewa zibweretseni tibowole thumbalo popangira zitukuko zina benefiniting my old mum and dad out there in the village

  7. Nankungwi  August 25, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I have asked these people what they mean by gender equality time and time again. I was in the EU parliament a few months ago and guess what the panel in all the working groups that I attended were dominated by men and the women who were present were there to support the men, secretaries (they are called PA’s these days as if that makes a difference). I was so engrossed in what was happening until an Italian girl pointed out to me the gender disparity in the EU house of laws. Now I am talking about EU, not individual countries and when I started paying attention to this fact in all the EU meetings that I went to, this was becoming more and more evident.

    Anyway, your article is well thought of and well written. Thank you for bringing this out because, they are putting blinkers on our eyes as you rightly said so that we can focus on trivia whilst they are making policies that are benefiting their countries and making us run around like fools.

    I am yet to meet anyone who can rightly describe to me how they define gender equality because I have lived and worked in the EU for over 20 years and I do not see or witness gender equality. In fact women are abused more here than in Africa.

    They talk about how horrible we are because in Africa we practice FMG, guess what, over here the women have been psychologically programmed not only to mutilate their genitals but their whole bodies. Anyway that is an issue for another day.

    Thanks for a very well written article.

  8. Ginny  August 25, 2012 at 6:58 am

    Well thought article …..I stop and wonder how on earth we vehemently talk of gender as if it will solve the developmental problems we have….mind you am woman who don’t support gender issues I feel we don’t have to push but time will tell. Now folks let’s talk not about this stupid 50/50 thing just because funds been set aside by stupid azungu . For once let us be objective set an agenda to develop ourselves…if not let’s call it a curse on us black people otherwise I see everyman as equal…..but these so called western development partnershave different agenda….keep your eyes open years from we will find ourselves in the same situation


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