World Bank launches incentives for MENA women entrepreneurs

World Bank launches incentives for MENA women entrepreneurs

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Dubai (UAE), February 22, 2020

World Bank Group President David Malpass (Twitter)

The World Bank Group has announced two new initiatives to improve access to start-up financing and e-commerce markets for women entrepreneurs.

The announcement was made at the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Summit held in Dubai on February 16, 2020.

“Starting and growing a business is one of the most powerful tools for women to overcome poverty and build better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said.

“Removing regulatory barriers along with obstacles to access to finance and markets can give women-led businesses the opportunity to succeed,” he said.

About We-Fi

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) is a ground-breaking partnership that aims to unlock financing for women-led businesses in developing countries.

Its partners include 14 donor governments, six multilateral development banks as implementing partners, and numerous other stakeholders in the public and private sector around the world.

We-Fi takes an ecosystem approach to removing barriers to women’s economic empowerment, addressing constraints and opportunities related to finance, market access, capacity and the enabling environment.

We-Fi, housed at the World Bank, has so far allocated close to US$250 million to tackle challenges that women entrepreneurs face in developing countries.

The allocations aim to reach 114,000 women entrepreneurs.

We-Fi is a powerful catalyst for additional investment, helping mobilise more than US$2.6 billion in additional public and private sector funds.

At the We-Fi MENA Regional Summit, held during the Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and We-Fi launched the ScaleX programme to incentivise accelerators to support start-up businesses led by women.

World Bank Group President David Malpass (fourth from left with others at the Dubai Summit)

Gender finance gap

IFC research shows that women entrepreneurs in emerging markets face a daunting gender finance gap with only 11% of enterprises that actually attain seed funding being female-led. 

New research shows that despite women leading half the start-ups that participate in accelerators, entities designed to train and support the development of start-ups to become investment ready, they continue to face greatly unequal access to capital.

The programme will incentivise emerging markets accelerators to work with women-led businesses by providing performance-based payments of US$25,000 for every woman entrepreneur who raises US$1 million from investors in start-up funding. 

“We are launching the ScaleX programme to help women entrepreneurs in emerging markets to access funding at a crucial stage to grow their businesses. This is a win-win for accelerators, investors, and women entrepreneurs, IFC Regional Vice President, Middle East and Africa Sérgio Pimenta said.

New partnership in MENA

The World Bank and UPS also announced a new partnership to help women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa region to grow their businesses by assisting them in successfully leveraging e-commerce platforms.

“By making e-commerce platforms more accessible, this partnership addresses a key constraint faced by women business leaders in reaching new markets. E-commerce platforms create opportunities, and we must ensure these opportunities are open to women-owned businesses across the region,”  World Bank MENA Vice President Ferid Belhaj said.

UPS will provide e-learning modules on different e-commerce topics to help women-owned and women-led small and medium enterprises seeking to expand their businesses across borders.

The project will support an estimated 750 women entrepreneurs and will train a cadre of e-commerce advisors in each country who can provide tailored assistance and coaching to businesses. The partnership will work with entrepreneurs in Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia.

We-Fi has made allocations to programmes being implemented by the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank. the Islamic Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.

The World Bank and IFC We-Fi programs (US$75 million in allocations) are working with private and public partners in 24 countries through 27 investment and advisory projects to enable women entrepreneurs to access finance and markets and amplify those efforts with global research, partnerships, and policy advocacy.

For more information about IFC’s ScaleX initiative:

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