Knocking Down Barriers with We-Fi’s First Round of Funding

Just before the World Bank Spring Meetings last week, the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (or We-Fi) announced their first round of grant allocations – $120 million in funding that is expected to leverage an additional $1.6 billion in financing for women-led or women-owned businesses.

Under that first round of funding, the $120 million is split between the following:

Since its launch in October, We-Fi has received over $340 million with help from 14 governments — Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, the U.K., and the U.S. — each of which have a seat on the governing committee. The fund initially set out to mobilize $800 million in additional financing from the private sector, donors, governments, and other development partners but Thursday’s first round of funding is expected to leverage $1.6 billion, far exceeding expectations.

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

The G20 Summit | July 8, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

We-Fi, an initiative announced last year at the G-20 Summit in Germany, received some added attention with support from United States President Donald Trump’s daughter and White House advisor, Ivanka Trump. While not directly involved in the committee’s governance, Ivanka has shown her support and continues to promote the fund publicly. The innovative new facility supports women-led businesses and works with governing committee to improve the laws and regulations stifling women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Why Fund Women?

Women entrepreneurs in emerging markets have driven up a $1.5 trillion credit deficit because of the unequal barriers when it comes to securing financing. Women owners of SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises) find themselves stuck with high-interest, short-term loans, or completely shut out of financial institutions all together. As World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim notes in a press release, “everyone benefits when women have the resources they need to fully participate in economies and societies.” We-Fi has recognized this need and has gone further to allocate fifty-eight percent of Thursday’s first round of funding to go to IDA (International Development Association) countries – where women struggle most to grow their SMEs due to conflict, violence or fragility of the area. Women from these countries experience such great barriers when growing their business and We-Fi has dedicated over half of its portfolio to those poorest areas.

“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.”

– Priya Basu, Head of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) Secretariat, The World Bank

 

Priya Basu, head of the We-Fi Secretariat at the World Bank, and our own Professor Linda Scott will speak this Thursday, May 3 at the Council on Foreign Relations on The Changing Landscape in Women’s Economic Empowerment as part of the ExxonMobil Women and Development Roundtable Series. The luncheon will showcase some leading initiatives that unlock new opportunities for women’s access to finance, including the World Bank’s We-Fi partnership, and the Global Business Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment (GBCforWEE), a group of nine leading multinational corporations focused on growing women’s role in the global economy, convened by Professor Scott.

The two new approaches both involve strong engagement with public, private, and civil society to advance women’s economic participation around the world.  Priya Basu and Linda Scott will lead the discussion into the changing landscape and new research on the role of the private sector in accelerating the economic advancement of women. The GBCforWEE will present their latest report, “Private Sector Engagement with Women’s Economic Empowerment: Lesson Learned from Years of Practice” which encourages other corporations to join in this important global effort and offer suggestions to the rest of the international community on the role that business can and should play.

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