The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) has announced its first funding allocations — expected to mobilize 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. This initial round of grant allocations alone mobilizes twice the amount originally targeted for We-Fi over its lifetime.

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.

We-Fi, which has received over $340 million from 14 governments, initially set out to mobilize $800 million in additional financing from the private sector, donors, governments and other development partners, but expected mobilization from today’s 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,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “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.  Women also often lack access to the technologies, market connections, networks, and training necessary to build and maintain a successful business.

We-Fi, announced last July at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, is an innovative, new facility that supports women-led businesses and works with governments to improve the laws and regulations stifling women entrepreneurs in developing countries. “The response from stakeholders in both emerging and advanced markets has been enthusiastic and immediate, clearly demonstrating the urgent need to scale up efforts to help women entrepreneurs in developing countries,” said Priya Basu, head of the We-Fi Secretariat at the World Bank. “We-Fi fills a critically important gap; it’s the first significant fund committed to tackling the full range of barriers facing women entrepreneurs across the developing world.” We-Fi was established as a Financial Intermediary Facility (FIF), which allows the international community to provide a direct and coordinated response to global priorities. FIF funds can be raised from multiple sources, both public and private, and are usually transferred to external agencies (e.g. United Nations or Multilateral Development Banks) to implement activities.

Source: World Bank