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Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative Invests In Over 15,000 Women-Led Businesses Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

By World Bank
Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative Invests In Over 15,000 Women-Led Businesses Amidst COVID-19 Crisis
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The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) announced today its third funding allocation comprising $49.3 Million - expected to benefit over 15,000 women-led businesses and mobilize about $350 million of additional public and private sector resources.

We-Fi’s latest round of allocations addresses the needs of women entrepreneurs created by the COVID-19 crisis, and encourages innovation and digital development, partnership development and the use of results-based mechanisms to facilitate greater access to financing for women entrepreneurs.

The third round allocates funding for programs to boost women’s entrepreneurship that will be implemented by four multilateral development banks; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for programs in Central Asia and the North Africa region, the Inter-American Development Bank for projects in Latin America, the Islamic Development Bank for entrepreneurship activities in fragile contexts in West Africa, and the World Bank Group for projects in the Sahel region, MENA and global programs. Over 65 percent of the most recent allocations will benefit women entrepreneurs in low-income (IDA-eligible) countries and countries affected by fragility and conflict. As a result of three financing rounds which now total almost $300 million in allocations, programs backing women-led businesses will soon expand to 61 countries.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, women entrepreneurs around the world are suffering large setbacks. New data about the disproportionate effects of lockdown measures on women-led SMEs are emerging; in several Sub-Saharan countries, about 60% of women-led small businesses have lost their sources of income, three times more than men-led businesses. Globally, women-owned SMEs are about 6 percentage points more likely to close their business than male-owned businesses, according to recent World Bank-led research.

“As we absorb the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, we need to take strong actions to build back better. Many women-led SMEs are disproportionally affected by the economic disruptions of the COVID crisis and many more women are losing their jobs. Entrepreneurship is central to the economic empowerment of women, especially in developing economies. Actions and support, such as by We-Fi’s recent round of financing, reaches women entrepreneurs in this time of need, and will help reestablish their roles as engines of inclusive economic growth”, says Mari Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships of the World Bank, which hosts the We-Fi Secretariat.

“We-Fi’s third round of allocations could not have come at a more important time. I am very pleased to see our Implementing Partners preparing such strong proposals to support women-led SMEs. Projects to leverage digital technologies, support digital skills-building, and identify new business opportunities that may arise as a result of the pandemic will benefit so many women-led SMEs during this crucial time”, says Mathew Haarsager, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Development Finance and Policy of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and chair of We-Fi’s Governing Committee.

Under the third round of funding:

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) was granted $7.36 million for its “Women of the Steppe” Women in Business Program which aims to rapidly respond to the disproportionate pressures WSMEs face in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 related crisis. The program will deploy innovative solutions for WSMEs that will contribute to (a) improving access to markets through more inclusive supply chains; (b) enhancing competitiveness, growth potential, and access to finance by strengthening their ability to leverage digital technologies and (c) leveraging sex-disaggregated data to inform more effective public and private sector interventions. Program activities will be implemented in Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, and Morocco.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) received $14.71 million for its program to support access to finance, markets, skills and networks for women-led businesses primarily in technology and science-supported sectors. The program will prioritize helping women entrepreneurs navigate the ongoing economic crisis, and also to identify new business opportunities that may arise as a result of the pandemic. The program will provide acceleration support as well as seed and venture capital to high-potential STEM women entrepreneurs. The program focuses on countries in Central America, Ecuador and Guyana.

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) received $11.25 million for its program which supports women in West Africa engaging in entrepreneurial activities in the rice value chain. While women are heavily engaged in the rice industry, the prohibitively high cost of borrowing, and the non-financial constraints which hinder access to resources, assets, and markets, prevent women entrepreneurs from improving their livelihoods. Accordingly, the program will aim to support upgrading and advancing women-owned SMEs within the rice value chain in West Africa though capacity development and grant matching, as well as increased access local and regional markets. Activities for this program will be carried out in Guinea, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

The World Bank Group (World Bank and IFC) received $16.01 million for a digitally enabled access to finance and markets program for women-led business in the Sahel region and globally, and an early-stage finance program supporting women entrepreneurs in several regions. The first program will foster market linkages between suppliers and buyers across the Sahel. It will provide services and training to women-led shea butter cooperatives on know-how, managerial capacity, networks, and marketing tools as well as support the digitization of payment systems. The second program seeks to create an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem, addresses financing gaps, and assists with skills-building and mentoring of women entrepreneurs. Activities for these programs will be implemented in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Jordan, Iraq, and globally.

About We-Fi:

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) is a multilateral partnership supporting women entrepreneurs with access to finance, markets, technology, mentoring, and other services, while working with governments and the private sector to improve the laws and policies inhibiting women’s businesses in developing countries.

We-Fi is supported by the governments of Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the Russian Federation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The We-Fi secretariat is housed by the World Bank and its programs are implemented by six Multilateral Development Banks.

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