All over the developing world women have successfully made it in business. But they are a small group of women —only 30 percent of formal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around the world are owned and run by women. Women entrepreneurs face numerous challenges to financing, owning, and growing a business, including legal and policy obstacles to business ownership and development.

 

70 percent of women-owned SMEs in developing countries can’t get the capital they need, resulting in a credit deficit of nearly $1.5 trillion per current estimates. It is nearly impossible to start or sustain a business without access to capital.

 

Lack of networks, knowledge, and links to high value markets further limit female entrepreneurship. Studies show that men have more social connections that enable them to access business opportunities, information, and contacts than do women. In this way, women are disadvantaged from the start, having fewer professional connections, role models, and mentorship opportunities, which can adversely affect their businesses in the long run.

 

We-Fi intends to change this. Its holistic approach will help women in developing countries gain increased access to the finance, markets, and networks necessary to start and grow a business.

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) – announced at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in July 2017 and launched at the Bank-Fund Annual Meetings in October – creates an unprecedented opportunity to harness the public and private sectors to open new doors for women entrepreneurs across the developing world. With funding of over $340 million from fourteen governments, this collaborative partnership among governments, multilateral development banks (MDBs), and other stakeholders has been designed to unlock financing for women-led/owned businesses in developing countries, including in the most challenging environments. We-Fi will support women entrepreneurs by scaling up access to financial products and services, building capacity, expanding networks, offering mentors, and providing opportunities to link with domestic and global markets. It will also assist governments in creating enabling environments for women in business.

 

We-Fi opened for business on October 12, 2017 and the first round of funding allocations were announced on April 19, 2018, with $120 million slated for three programs designed to knock down the unique barriers facing women entrepreneurs in developing countries.  This first round of allocated funding is expected to mobilize over $1.6 billion in additional funds from the private sector, donors, governments and other development partners: that’s 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.

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Access to finance

Access to finance

We-Fi supported programs will build the capacity of financial institutions to better serve women entrepreneurs, by providing them with access to debt, equity, venture capital, and insurance products.

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Access to Markets

Access to Markets

We-Fi supported programs will work closely with the private sector to create better linkages to domestic and global supply chains for women entrepreneurs.

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Access to Training, Mentoring, and Networks

Access to Training, Mentoring, and Networks

We-Fi supported programs will help build the capacity of women entrepreneurs around the world, as well as connect them to mentors and additional networks, so that they can take their businesses to the next level.

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Improve the enabling environment

Improve the enabling environment

We-Fi supported programs will work with public sector actors to improve the legal and regulatory constraints that women entrepreneurs face in running their businesses.

Founding Contributors

Australia

Canada

China

Denmark

Germany

Japan

The Netherlands

Norway

Russian Federation

Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia

Republic of Korea

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom

United States of America

Founding Contributors

Australia

Canada

China

Denmark

Germany

Japan

The Netherlands

Norway

Russian Federation

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Republic of Korea

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom

United States of America

Eligible Implementing Partners