The push for longer paternity leave speaks to how kin networks locally and around Africa have broken down in the demographic, sociological and economic changes that characterise modern society But given the level of development in much of Africa, instituting paternity leave may not be quite so simple. Before we see why, however, let us start from the beginning. The kin networks are extended family institutions in many African communities that provide a social security system, including for child care. You might still find such networks in rural areas. When a child is born, for example, members of the extended family such as mothers-in-law or sisters-in-law and even neighbours assist in caring for the newborn baby and the nursing mother. They share the emotional and physical burden that a nursing mother goes through during the early period of childrearing. This however doesn’t tend to work very well nowadays, especially in urban settings. This is not only because many in the towns are disconnected from their extended families but the demands of employment mean that people are tied to their work in the formal and informal sectors of the economy. But the real issue is unpaid work, where mothers, including working mothers, for example, are left to run the home and take care of the children including the newborns, often with little support from the fathers. Our governments are, of course, seized of this fact. Except that while maternity leave for women is up to 12 weeks or more, paternity leave for new fathers is between one and five days in the vast majority of countries in the continent. Those with longer include Zambia with seven days paternity leave, and ten days in Cameroon, South Africa and Seychelles. In Burkina Faso, the leave is 20 days. In the East African Community, the leave is three days in Tanzania, two days in DR Congo and four days each in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. In Kenya and South Sudan, the leave is two weeks. Aside from the benefits the advocates of longer paternity leave cite such as fathers supporting both mother and infant at their most vulnerable, studies show the provision of paternity leave can improve women’s chances in paid employment. One example of this is where it may change employer attitudes. For instance, if a particular position requires investment in job training, employers have been known to discriminate against women, anticipating frequent absence due to childbirth and child-rearing activities. However, if paternity leave allows men to spend more time outside employment, assuming considerable uptake of paternity leave, this may limit discrimination against women. If there are clear benefits, what are the barriers? To take the case of Rwanda, men advocates cite, among others, maternal “gate-keeping” as an important barrier to the involvement of men in caregiving activities. Another is the limited policy and legislative environment and the primacy of a patriarchal culture that dictates the division of labour between mothers and fathers. In concrete terms, to quote one often-cited study by Action Aid Rwanda, women in rural areas spend up to 7 hours a day on unpaid care work while men do around 1 to 3 hours a day. The lopsidedness of this division of labour clearly needs to be addressed. However, it may seem that paternity leave as a possible solution is not quite so simple. Take the example of Uganda, as described in an analysis under the global policy forum OECD. The four days of paternity leave, as per Ugandan law, apply to the formal sector which employs less than 8 per cent of the working-age population. This in effect means it covers only a small population of employed fathers. Furthermore, and this is not just in Uganda but in countries in the region and across Africa, there are no institutions to enforce the leave. The other concern similar to that expressed by the Rwandan advocates, the four days are too short to lead to care equality. In Uganda, however, most men in the formal sector rarely use them. Also, as in Rwanda, there is limited awareness of the need for and entitlement to paternity leave. The Uganda situation is reflective of much of Africa. Thus the analysis concludes that paternity leave for economies with high informality and institutional gaps in enforcement is unrealistic. Therefore, African governments, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, should invest in the supply side of gender-sensitive infrastructure to ease the care work burden. Such infrastructure includes early childhood development centres, play parks, public transport with priority areas for mothers and fathers with children and breastfeeding centres. These should be affordable, accessible and non-discriminatory. In the long term, they might do more for gender parity than paternity leave.