The World Economic Forum has always provided a platform for constructive discussion on complex issues, even in challenging times. I welcome this chance to collaborate and expect this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa to explore issues of critical importance to the people of Africa, and to further the dialogue that leads us to durable solutions.

As an African woman, naturally I am interested in how we can use this forum to advance progress for and by women across the continent. Here, we can delve deeper into the complex socioeconomic situations that African women face daily.

As we work to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, we realize that the challenges posed by the interconnections of climate change and the 3F Crises – food, fuel and finance – are disproportionately affecting women. We must accelerate the empowerment of rural women and emphasize their role in eradicating poverty and hunger, in mitigating climate change and in sustainable development for all.

The Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011 states that “the most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent – the skills, education and productivity of its workforce”. As such, it is clear that a nation’s competitiveness ultimately depends on whether and how it utilizes its human resources. Women make up the majority of the world’s population, filling multiple roles within the labour force. So, their inclusion in any initiatives aimed at sustainable economic development is critical for equitable and durable growth globally.

I always say that where women fare well, societies fare well. It has been consistently shown that where women are economically empowered, society as a whole benefits. Yet, as noted in the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development, women, representing 40% of the world’s labour force, nevertheless hold only 1% of the world’s wealth. Leveraging women’s potential, therefore, is critical for minimizing social inequalities for the benefit of us all.

Given the intertwined nature of economic, societal and political factors, we must take a holistic approach and integrate economic factors into the political and social dimensions in our areas of intervention. Thus, initiatives such as our Women-Led Business project, in which female entrepreneurs at the grassroots level are mentored and facilitated to grow their own successful businesses, not only lead to economic independence for women, but also to sustainable development throughout their communities.

To create a synergy of effects, cooperation must be the ordre du jour. The discussions held by the World Economic Forum to transform and invest in Africa’s growth are, therefore, essential to all of us working for durable peace and security. I look forward to this year’s meeting in Addis Ababa furthering the progress toward these ends.

Bineta Diop is the Chair of the Executive Board, Femmes Africa Solidarité, Switzerland and is participating in the World Economic Forum on Africa 2012.