The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) supports 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.
We believe in women as change agents and drivers of economic growth.
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.
Women-owned SMEs in developing countries can’t get the capital they need; they face an estimated credit deficit of nearly $1.5 trillion. 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.
We-Fi is changing this. Its holistic approach helps women in developing countries gain increased access to the finance, markets, and networks necessary to start and grow a business.
We-Fi, founded in October 2017, harnesses the public and private sectors to open new doors for women entrepreneurs across the developing world. With funding of $354 million from 14 governments, this collaborative partnership among governments, multilateral development banks, 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 supports women entrepreneurs by scaling up access to finance, markets, networks and mentors and information. It is also assisting governments in creating enabling environments for women in business.
We-Fi works with six multilateral development banks as implementing partners: African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank Group (including IFC). The We-Fi Secretariat is housed in the World Bank in Washington DC.
We-Fi allocated $249 million over two financing rounds in 2018 and 2019 to implementing partners for work in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The programs aim to benefit 115,000 women-owned SMEs. Projects are implemented in over 50 countries with over half of the funds going to low income (IDA-eligible) countries, including many facing fragile and conflict-affected situations. It has mobilized $2.6 billion in public and private funds.