Programs & Projects

Summary of We-Fi projects under the First Round of funding

In April 2018, We-Fi approved its first round of funding of $120 million 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. 67 percent of first round funding will go to low-income and FCS countries.

These operations will:

  • bring comprehensive ecosystem solutions to improve women’s entrepreneurship;
  • mobilize additional financing for women-owned/led businesses;
  • primarily target women entrepreneurs in fragile and conflict-affected situations and low-income countries; and
  • leverage partnerships with local and international stakeholders.

The approved projects are expected to provide support to more than 4,000 women owned/led SMEs (WSMEs), create more than 57,000 new jobs, provide $870 million in new financing to WSMEs, support at least eight legal and regulatory reforms, and improve sales and profit to at least 560 WSMEs. Projects also provide direct financing such as matching grants aimed at raising the performance and bankability of WSMEs. In the first round of financing, 1200 WSMEs will receive matching grants.

Asian Development Bank

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) was granted $12.6 million for a program on “Enabling an Empowering Business Environment for Women Entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka”. The project builds on ADB’s existing SME Line of Credit project in lagging regions within Sri Lanka. It aims to tackle multiple challenges including policy and regulatory frameworks, absence of inclusive financial products and services, limited capacity of WSMEs, and insufficient data and evidence on women’s entrepreneurship. The program will contribute to reducing Sri Lanka’s gender credit gap, estimated at $350 million. ADB will work closely with national-level partners including 10 participating financial institutions, the government of Sri Lanka, and local chambers of commerce.

The project expects to facilitate access to finance for up to 600 women; build capacity, provide access to training and mentoring for 250 women entrepreneurs; provide direct investment and advisory support to ten participating financial institutions to improve gender-inclusive financial products and services to women; and offer technical assistance to government agencies to improve the policy and regulatory environment. To date, 130 WSMEs have received support.

Islamic Development Bank

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) was granted $32.2 million for its “Business Resilience Assistance for Value-adding Enterprises for Women (BRAVE Women) program”. BRAVE Women complements and expands existing successful initiatives in Yemen, Nigeria, and Mali. It aims to enhance the resilience of WSMEs in fragile contexts, recognizing their untapped economic potential. It will increase business growth opportunities for women entrepreneurs by boosting investment and providing capacity-building support.

Project implementation has begun in Yemen and will roll out in Nigeria and Mali in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The project in Yemen will work with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation for public sector alignment and endorsement. Main partners include three banks for the purpose of grant administration: Al Kuraimi Islamic Micro-Finance Bank, Saba Islamic Bank of Yemen and Tadhamon International Islamic Bank. The project will provide skills training and access to finance schemes, aimed at boosting entrepreneurship and job security.

Expected results in the three countries include business resilience training for 1500 WSMEs, matching grants to 1200 WSMEs for business development and upgrading, collaboration with 60 business associations, and establishment of open-source IT platforms in each country to track interactions between WSMEs and the executing agency.

World Bank Group

The World Bank Group (WBG) was granted $75 million for its program “Creating Finance and Markets for All”, with $49 million allocated to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to lead private-sector initiatives, and $26 million allocated to the World Bank to lead public-sector activities. Over half of the funds allocated to the WBG will be dedicated to International Development Association (IDA) eligible countries and conflict affected states where women struggle most to grow their small and medium businesses, including countries like Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zambia. The grant is expected to mobilize innovative private sector focused solutions, test and evaluate new approaches.

The World Bank’s We-Fi program has approved a set of 13 projects with various geographic scopes including country-focused, regional, and global projects. These interventions take multiple forms and help women entrepreneurs overcome policy, market, or institutional failures. Project examples include

supporting integration of WSMEs into domestic and international value chains; lifting constraints related to the absence of credit history; increasing the ability of WSMEs to attract investment through the creation of technology platforms; and providing advisory services to governments and financial institutions for policy, regulatory, and institutional reform.

IFC is taking a programmatic approach to project identification and selection and allocate funds on a rolling basis during the first two years of the program. As of October 2018, a package of four insurance-related advisory projects were approved with a total financing cost of $1m, of which We-Fi funded $360k. The pipeline includes 7 advisory and 6 investment operations. Examples include: loans to banks in Vietnam and India, a We-Fi performance rebate to incentivize banks to expand loans to WSMEs, a risk-sharing facility to a bank in Kosovo, and blended finance to a global fund focused on WSMEs. Partnerships have been forged with business accelerators Village Capital, Flat 6 Labs, the Global Banking Alliance for Women, and WEConnect to expand supplier diversity in procurement contracts.

Funding Awarded to Proposals under the First Call

Funding Awarded to Proposals under the First Call