Despite great strides in economic growth and increased women in leadership in the region, gender inequality remains a significant impediment to growth and well-being across East Africa. Women face differential barriers in access to assets, markets, capital, training, and technologies; and they are underrepresented in—if not restricted from—decision-making spheres at all levels. This limits them from reaching their full potential and fully contributing to their countries’ economies.  USAID increases economic empowerment opportunities and closes gender gaps in participation between women and men. Through its programs, USAID links women to access credit, engage in international trade, and access global markets.

The regional economies are shifting away from primarily farming economies towards services and industries.  However, 96% of women in Burundi, 76% in Kenya, 84% in Rwanda, 71% in Tanzania and 77% in Uganda still work in agriculture. Women's contribution to home and childcare, which is time-consuming, and which largely is unpaid, limits their ability to get paid work. Women’s land tenure remains low in many countries due to ambiguities in national laws or when discriminative customary law informs decisions that disadvantage women.

Few women have bank or mobile money accounts and even less can borrow money. The gender digital gap worsened by affordability, illiteracy, and a lack of digital skills still locks women out  and are the key barriers to mobile phone use and ownership.  When women face sexual harassment and violence or they are denied their property rights, inadequate measures exist to protect them.