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Fourth Round of Funding comes at critical time as women-led businesses deal with negative impacts from rising prices, conflict, and aftermath of COVID pandemic

Washington D.C., April 26, 2022 – The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) today announced a new round of funding of US$ 54.8 million for programs supporting women entrepreneurs in developing economies to access digital technology and finance while addressing systemic data gaps. The funding is expected to reach almost 69,000 women-led/women-owned enterprises (WSMEs) and mobilize an additional $605 million in public and private sector funding – providing critical support as many WSMEs face mounting challenges due to rising prices, economic slowdown, the pandemic and conflict and insecurity. 

With this fourth round of financing, approved by We-Fi’s Governing Committee this week, We-Fi has allocated a total of $353 Million which will benefit over 200,000 women entrepreneurs directly. The new financing will be implemented by four multilateral development bank groups – the African Development Bank for a digital credit program in the Africa region, the Islamic Development Bank for activities to support entrepreneurial capacity and access to finance Yemen and Bangladesh, the Inter-American Development Bank Group for a data and information exchange platform in Central America, the World Bank for a global program to promote the collection of gender financial data with financial institutions and support the development of WSME-focused financial products, and IFC for global activities focused on increasing access to finance for women entrepreneurs,  and improving the financial sector’s collection and application of sex-disaggregated data. About 67 percent of the new allocation will benefit women entrepreneurs in low-income (IDA-eligible) countries and countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV).  

“We-Fi’s fourth round of allocations comes at a crucial time. Women’s economic empowerment is under pressure due to conflict and insecurity, rising prices and the continuous fallout from the Covid pandemic around the world”, says Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary of Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. “I am pleased to see our Implementing Partners preparing such strong proposals to support women-led businesses. Access to technology and financing will be key to unlock the potential of women entrepreneurs.”

“Women entrepreneurs are an essential part of inclusive economic recovery,” says Mari Pangestu, Managing Director Development Policy and Partnerships of the World Bank Group, and a We-Fi Leadership Champion. “We-Fi plays a unique role to help design and support innovative approaches with public and private sector actors and crowd in funding. Digital transformation is a key part of the new financing round, which will help women leverage technologies to realize their full potential. As we support countries dealing with multiple crises, reforms to accelerate gender equality must be front and center.”

Under the fourth round of funding: 

The African Development Bank (AfDB) received $15 Million for its “Africa Digital Financial Inclusion Facility (ADFI)” program to develop and extend digital financial services and skills-building for WSMEs in Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Mozambique, and Nigeria – complementing AfDB’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa Initiative (AFAWA). By leveraging digital technology, the program will improve WSMEs’ access to finance and help reduce the gender financing gap.

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) received $5.5 Million for a program which strengthens the resilience and performance of WSMEs in Yemen through financial literacy training, access to markets, matching grants, and access to finance from local banks, building on the existing successful ‘BRAVE’ program which benefitted 900 women entrepreneurs since 2019. In addition, IsDB received $6.1 Million for financial support to women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh who are actively engaged in sanitation-related businesses in 15 municipalities across the country. Improved sanitation and good hygiene practices are life-sustaining and provide local business opportunities for women-led businesses. 

The Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDB Group) was allocated approximately $4.9 Million for its “WECOUNT” program; a platform to facilitate relationships and transactions between WSMEs in Central America and capacity building, market linkage, and finance actors. This platform helps WSMEs to leverage their data to access new market and financing partners, make better-informed selling and capital requirement decisions, and increase their negotiating power. 

The World Bank Group (WBG) received almost $23.3 Million, including $12.3 Million for the World Bank to strengthen the capacity of central banks, and other financial institutions to better serve WSMEs, while aiming to promote the development of financial products and services for WSMEs, including digital financial products and access to early-stage finance. The program will potentially cover over 50 countries across the world with 60% of resources allocated in IDA and fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS). 

IFC was granted $10.95 Million for a program that deploys capital and blended finance instruments such as performance-based incentives, to promote innovative financial and nonfinancial services to women-led businesses, and to put in place a sex-disaggregated data initiative with 90 Financial Services Providers. The program has a global scope including significant activities in IDA and FCS markets.  

About We-Fi 

Founded in 2017, the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) is a multilateral partnership supporting women entrepreneurs in developing countries with access to finance, markets, technology, mentoring, and other services, while working with governments and the private sector to improve the laws and policies inhibiting women’s businesses in developing countries. It has allocated $353 Million since 2018, which will support over 200,000 WSMEs in 60+ countries and will mobilize $3.55 billion in additional private and public sector funds.   

We-Fi is supported by the governments of Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the Russian Federation, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The We-Fi Secretariat is housed by the World Bank and its programs are implemented by six Multilateral Development Bank Groups.  

Click here to view Implementing Partner proposals.

Media contact:

Angela Bekkers
Senior External Affairs Officer
We-Fi Secretariat
The World Bank