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Access to finance and training can be a game changer for women entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka, where small businesses contribute to 52 percent of the country’s GDP and provide a livelihood for nearly 2 million people. In recognition of this potential, in 2018 We-Fi provided a $12.6 million grant to build on the ADB’s existing strategy to foster women’s entrepreneurship in the country.

One of the program’s most innovative aspects is the use of blended finance. In 2020, ADB blended $9.5 million of the We-Fi grant funding with an ADB $23.3 million line of credit extended to 10 participating financial institutions for their own on-lending programs to women entrepreneurs. In the first two years of implementation, the program provided credits to 647 WSMEs, surpassing the original goal of 616.

The program also builds the capacity of WSMEs through two tracks of business development training. WSMEs in the special track are nominated by participating banks, which strengthens the linkages between training and loan provision. Upon the successful completion of the training program, women entrepreneurs become eligible to access an additional 10 percent off the loan principle in the form of a We-Fi grant. The general track provides training opportunities to a wider range of WSMEs. It is open to any interested WSMEs and is advertised through social media and local newspapers. In 2020, more than 200 WSMEs participated in the training and 29 of them received loans blended with We-Fi grants. These women operate in a variety of sectors, including bag manufacturing, bridal services, agriculture, and horticulture.