The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) thursday announced its first funding allocations — expected to mobilise over $1.6 billion in additional funds from an allocation of $120 million — for programs designed to knock down the unique barriers facing women entrepreneurs in developing countries.
The first round includes funding for proposals from the Islamic Development Bank to complement and expand successful initiatives in Yemen, Mali and Nigeria; the Asian Development Bank to improve the business environment for women in Sri Lanka; and the World Bank Group for global, regional and country specific activities to increase public and private sector support for women in business, with a focus on the poorest and most fragile environments.
The initial round of grant allocations alone mobilises twice the amount originally targeted for We-Fi over its lifetime.
We-Fi, which had received over $340 million from 14 governments, had initially set out to mobilise $800 million in additional financing from the private sector, donors, governments and other development partners, but expected mobilisation from first round of allocations exceeds those expectations. In addition, fifty-eight percent of the first allocations will go to IDA countries or states affected by fragility, conflict or violence, putting We-Fi on track to exceed its commitment to devote half its portfolio to those areas.
“We know that everyone benefits when women have the resources they need to fully participate in economies and societies,” World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim said.
“By harnessing the public and private sector, We-Fi creates an unprecedented opportunity to maximize financing for women entrepreneurs in developing countries, so that they have a real and fair chance to start and run businesses, create wealth, share in prosperity, and achieve their highest aspirations.”
Some 70% of women who own small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the developing world currently can’t get the financing they need. They are either shut out of financial institutions, or can only get high-interest, short-term loans, resulting in a $1.5 trillion credit deficit for women entrepreneurs in emerging markets.