A letter by Wendy Teleki, Head of the We-Fi Secretariat

It has been a busy month for We-Fi as we have been working with our Governing Committee and Implementing Partners to finalize the third round of We-Fi funding. It has been inspiring and humbling to see the magnitude of proposed innovations, partnerships and geographies, and to consider the impact they can have on women entrepreneurs in this time of crisis when the need is so great. Watch this space for news on the activities that are selected.

The discussion around the third financing round could not have come at a more important time. In our most recent WE Talks, we were finally able to see important new data from Facebook, FinMark and WeConnect showing the disproportionate effects of lockdown measures on women-led SMEs are emerging; in Uganda, for example, 61% of women-led small businesses is failing to have income, compared to 22% of men-led business. Rwanda and South Africa show similar trends. Globally, female-owned businesses closure rates have already been six percentage points more likely than male-owned businesses, according to recent World Bank and Facebook surveys.

Even before the new allocations are announced, our Implementing Partners are stepping up to do more for WSMEs. Recently, IFC committed to make up to $215 million available to financial institutions for loans to women entrepreneurs impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, supported by blended finance from We-Fi. In Pakistan, the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law team supported the government of Pakistan in enacting amendments to the Pakistan Companies Bill, which equalized the business registration process for men and women. In Yemen, an inspiring video by IsDB shows how their work in the country is supporting the complex needs of women entrepreneurs.

Finally, as we conclude our Fiscal Year and my first year as the Head of the We-Fi Secretariat, I would be remiss not to thank our Governing Committee, Implementing Partners, Observers, Private and Public Sector Partners, and our colleagues in our host organization, the World Bank, for all of their support to We-Fi over the past year.  To quote the inspiring Lina Ahmed, co-founder of the We-Fi / IFC-supported education startup Dot & Line in Pakistan: “In the end, we are in this together and it can make us more whole and human.”