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AfDB, Partners Inaugurate New Women Initiative To Promote Ethical Leadership

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and its partners have announced the establishment of a new women initiative aimed at promoting ethical leadership in Africa.

Dubbed, “Women in Ethics and Compliance in Africa network (WECA)”, it is an initiative geared towards creating a membership group for women executives and management leading the fight against corruption and non-compliance in business.

Its organisers, leaders from the AfDB, the Coalition for Ethical Operations (CEO) and the United Nations Global Compact, said the initiative is a unique support organization for female leaders and executives working to curb unethical business practices in Africa.

WECA made its debut at an online webinar co-hosted by the bank on Tuesday and the attendees discussed a number of challenges women leaders face in Africa’s male-dominated corporate world. Moreover, the WECA network founding members said they plan to address the lack of avenues and support for ethical leadership.

The network also aims to bridge the gap in human resources for ethics and compliance across the continent, through mentoring and coaching young women professionals for career progression. Some WECA network supporters said this starts from a young age.

AfDB’s Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society, Vanessa Moungar said the formation of the network reiterates the bank’s commitment to ensuring that sustainable development is hinged on bridging the gender gap, with emphasis on key areas such as ethics and compliance.

“We’re inviting women from all across the private and public sectors on the continent to join in and help in achieving the objectives of this network”, she said.

Also in her remarks, the Director-General of UN Global Compact, Sanda Ojiambo told the virtual audience of experienced ethics and compliance professionals that her organization supports WECA’s mission.

“The UN Global Compact is very much aligned with the objectives of the WECA to advance coordinated ethical business practices, anti-corruption measures across the continent, and to empower a new generation of female leaders in the field”, she added.

In addition, the Chief of Intergovernmental Relations and Africa for the United Nations Global Compact and founding member of WECA, Olajobi Makinwa observed that African public and private sector entities and civil society institutions are still lagging behind in ensuring the establishment and adherence to a culture of ethics and compliance in business.

Makinwa added that WECA will support peer engagement, exchange of ideas and information on ethics and compliance best practices, dialogue on emerging ethics and compliance challenges, and champion women’s ethics and compliance leadership across the continent.

The Global Head of Compliance at Puma Energy, Rhibetnan Yaktal noted that there is a need to create a global awareness and education to address the gender issue from a cultural perspective.  said Rhibetnan Yaktal. To girls, her advice: “Build yourself up. There is no glass ceiling. There is no limit”.

The online gathering also explored how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought another dimension of challenges for ethical concerns for all leaders, especially women. Under the theme, “Women in Compliance in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities, Navigating in the era of COVID-19”, webinar attendees told a panel that the compliance issue is very timely.

Some noted that women play a significant role in the fight against the pandemic, which has forced major changes in how businesses operate and interact. Other participants said COVID-19 cannot be an excuse for businesses to ignore the ethical and integrity challenges faced in ensuring compliance systems are working and withstanding new and emerging risks.  

In her presentation, the Integrity Compliance Officer at the World Bank Group, Lisa Miller noted that women are uniquely well-positioned to deal with difficulties, challenges, and crises.

“For example, women leaders are better managing the current COVID-19 pandemic, yielding more results built on ethical leadership and strong integrity”, she further explained.

While speaking at the women’s sexual harassment segment of the webinar, the Head of Ethics at AfDB, Paula Santos Da Costa said work was needed on a “speak-up culture and  to implement a zero-tolerance policy in the workplace”.

In her closing remarks, the Legal and Compliance Advisor at Distell, Sorita Botha expressed optimism on the prospect of the initiative, adding that it will go a long way in bringing about positive changes.

 “I’m so excited about the launch of WECA, and I’m sure we will hear success stories from women in ethics and compliance in coming months and years. It is the beginning of a new era of women empowerment for critical roles in Africa”, she stressed.


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