WB earmarks $1bn to fund women-led SMEs

THE World Bank Group has announced the creation of a new facility that aims to enable more than $1 billion to advance women’s entrepreneurship and help women in developing countries gain increased access to the finance, markets, and networks necessary to start and grow a business.

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 programmes that support women and women-led SMEs in World Bank Group client countries.

The United States initiated the idea for the facility and will serve as a founding member along with other donor countries. The goal of the facility is to leverage donor grant funding — currently over $325 million — to unlock more than $1 billion in IFI and commercial financing by working with financial intermediaries, funds, and other market actors.

The World Bank Group 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 from 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.

We-Fi builds on the success of past and current Bank Group programmes while reaching into new areas, supporting women-led businesses at earlier stages of growth, and unlocking access to equity and insurance services. At the same time, the facility aims to support complementary public sector interventions that strengthen the enabling environment and enhance market opportunities for women-owned businesses.

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. — Wires.