World Bank: Give women access to financial services to unleash growth

18 Apr 19

A meeting of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative – part of the World Bank Group - has called on governments to increase women’s access to financial services.

The We-Fi regional summit, held in Ivory Coast, focused on ways to strengthen support for women-led small and medium-sized enterprises in West Africa.

It heard that women are more likely than men to be entrepreneurs in Africa but that they face entrenched barriers making it harder for them to succeed. They are frequently excluded from financial services, government contracts, mentoring and the basic infrastructure of the digital economy.

Organised by We-Fi, in collaboration with the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank Group, the summit was attended by more than 400 delegates and speakers. They included heads of state, ministers, leaders of development banks, private sector executives and women entrepreneurs.

A recent World Bank study found that monthly profits and sales from female-owned firms in the region were on average 34% and 38% lower than those of male-owned firms.

The summit’s joint ‘Call to Action’ urged government to adopt wide-ranging public policy reforms to help women entrepreneurs overcome persistent barriers, both financial and non-financial. 

Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank CEO commented: “By helping tackle financial, social, and legal constraints, We-Fi can help unleash the tremendous potential of women entrepreneurs as a force for job creation and economic growth. Through the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa programme, AfD is transforming financial markets by encourging lending to women on the continent. We invite all stakeholders to join us and be part of this game-changing initiative.”

Hosted by the World Bank Group and set up in 2017, We-Fi is supported by 14 governments, eight development banks and other public and private sector stakeholders. Donors have so far committed over US $35m to support its activities.

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