On the occasion of the G20 leaders’ summit, the World Bank Group announced the creation of an innovative 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 United States initiated the idea for the facility and will serve as a founding member along with other donor countries.
“This incredible facility will have a significant impact on women’s economic development around the world,” United States President Donald Trump said. “It will help increase opportunities and economic growth while addressing unique barriers women entrepreneurs face. I am proud the United States is helping to lead support of this unprecedented initiative.”
“Women’s economic empowerment is critical to achieve the inclusive economic growth required to end extreme poverty, which is why it has been such a longstanding priority for us,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “This new facility offers an unprecedented opportunity to harness both the public and private sectors to open new doors of opportunity for women entrepreneurs and women-owned firms in developing countries around the globe.”
“Everyone benefits when women have the resources they need to participate fully in our economies and societies,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “Our Government is determined to help women gain the tools they need to be successful entrepreneurs and leaders. This important investment will help women in developing countries to create jobs, build economies that work for everyone, and have a real and fair chance at success.”
“I am happy that this initiative for women presents real added value. I want to sincerely thank everyone who worked on it especially the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and Ivanka Trump and others. We can see from the example of this Women’s Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative that the G20 is not just a two-day Summit, but that the G20 is a process” Chancellor Merkel of Germany said. “And I don’t have the slightest doubt that under the leadership of Jim Kim that these will be truly valuable and productive investments.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: “Women’s active participation in society is one of the pillars of Abenomics. Women’s empowerment and leadership will diversify and revitalize organization and societies. This facility embodies such belief in developing countries, and is promising initiative to achieve society where women shine.”
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 programs that support women and women-led SMEs in World Bank Group client countries. The goal of the facility is to leverage donor grant funding – currently over US$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 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.
“It’s remarkable how quickly the international community has mobilized support for this new initiative, which has exceeded our target by nearly $100 million,” Kimsaid. “This demonstrates not only the importance of increasing women’s economic empowerment, but it scales up our efforts to help women open and grow businesses. We’re grateful to President Trump, Chancellor Merkel, and Ivanka Trump for being such strong champions of this facility and the broader cause of women’s entrepreneurship.”
We-Fi builds on the success of past and current Bank Group programs 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.
We-Fi differs from current efforts in that it represents a platform to align country-level reforms and private investment, build on and implement lessons learned about what works for starting and growing female owned/led firms, collect key data from the public and private sector on female entrepreneurs and their firms, and support innovation and learning for results at scale.
Women entrepreneurs face numerous challenges to financing, owning, and growing a business, including limited access to capital and technology, a lack of networks and knowledge resources, and legal and policy obstacles to business ownership and development.
We-Fi will work to break down barriers to financial access and provide complementary services such as capacity building, access to networks and mentors, and opportunities to link with domestic and global markets as well as improve the business environment for women-owned or women-led SMEs in supply chains across the developing world.
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.
Women Entrepreneurs Face Many Challenges
- It is estimated that women-owned entities represent just over 30 percent of formal, registered businesses worldwide.
- Yet, seventy 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. This results in a nearly $300 billion annual credit deficit to formal women-owned SMEs.
- Lack of networks, knowledge, and links to high value markets further constrain female entrepreneurship.
- Moreover, unfavorable business and regulatory environments are among the barriers that still impede women entrepreneurs from accessing finance.
- The fact that many emerging markets financial institutions have yet to develop a sustainable strategy to address this significant market gap represents a missed opportunity and constrains private sector development