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World Bank to support women entrepreneurship with over $1 billion

The World Bank Group, as part of the G20 leaders’ summit, have announced the creation of an innovative new facility that aims to enable more than $1 billion to advance women’s entrepreneurship.

This facility will also help women in developing countries gain increased access to the finance, markets, and networks necessary to start and grow a business, the Bank said.

It adds that the United States initiated the idea for the facility and will serve as a founding member along with other donor countries.

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the first World Bank-led facility to advance women’s entrepreneurship at this scale, will work to enable more than $1 billion of financing to improve access to capital, provide technical assistance, and invest in other projects and programs that support women and women-led SMEs in World Bank Group client countries.

The goal of the facility, according to the Bank, is to leverage donor grant funding – currently over US$325 million – to unlock more than $1 billion in IFI and commercial financing by working with financial intermediaries, funds, and other market actors.

It adds that, the Bank was invited to create the facility by the United States and Germany, given the Bank Group’s deep experience, track record, and strong learning and innovation agenda. The initiative received strong donor support Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States, enabling the Bank Group to take the facility from concept to Board endorsement within the year of the German G20 presidency.

“This incredible facility will have a significant impact on women’s economic development around the world. It will help increase opportunities and economic growth while addressing unique barriers women entrepreneurs face. I am proud the United States is helping to lead support of this unprecedented initiative,” the United States President Donald Trump was quoted as saying.

“Women’s economic empowerment is critical to achieve the inclusive economic growth required to end extreme poverty, which is why it has been such a longstanding priority for us. This new facility offers an unprecedented opportunity to harness both the public and private sectors to open new doors of opportunity for women entrepreneurs and women-owned firms in developing countries around the globe,” the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim was also cited as saying.

“‎Everyone benefits when women have the resources they need to participate fully in our economies and societies. Our Government is determined to help women gain the tools they need to be successful entrepreneurs and leaders. This important investment will help women in developing countries to create jobs, build economies that work for everyone, and have a real and fair chance at success,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau further added his voice.

We-Fi, according to the Bank builds on the success of past and current World Bank Group programs while reaching into new areas, supporting women-led businesses at earlier stages of growth, and unlocking access to equity and insurance services. It also supports complementary public sector interventions that strengthen the enabling environment and enhance market opportunities for women-owned businesses.

We-Fi, it pointed out differs from current efforts in that it represents a platform to align country-level reforms and private investment, build on and implement lessons learned about what works for starting and growing female owned/led firms, collect key data from the public and private sector on female entrepreneurs and their firms, and support innovation and learning for results at scale.

Women entrepreneurs face numerous challenges to financing, owning, and growing a business, including limited access to capital and technology, a lack of networks and knowledge resources, and legal and policy obstacles to business ownership and development, it observed, adding, one of the major constraints limiting female-led enterprises is access to financial services.

Nearly 70 percent of women-owned SMEs in developing countries are either shut out by financial institutions or are unable to receive financial services on adequate terms to meet their needs.

Additionally, We-Fi will work to break down barriers to financial access and provide complementary services such as capacity building, access to networks and mentors, and opportunities to link with domestic and global markets as well as improve the business environment for women-owned or women-led SMEs in supply chains across the developing world.

By Pamela Ofori-Boateng.
Credit- World Bank