Starting and growing a business is one of the most powerful tools for women to overcome poverty and build a better future for themselves and their communities. We-Fi addresses the systemic barriers to women entrepreneurs in developing countries by linking policy, legal, and regulatory reforms with public and private investments. It takes a broader eco-systems approach and focuses on access to finance, markets, networks, technology and tackles laws and business practices that keep women from thriving in business.

To date, We-Fi has allocated over two financing rounds $249 million to programs supporting women’s entrepreneurship in over 50 countries.

First round of funding

In April 2018, the Governing Committee made its first funding allocation to the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank Group for the initial set of programs and projects approved; the amount allocated, $120 million, will mobilize additional resources of $1.6 billion, surpassing We-Fi’s five-year leverage target. At least 58% of funds allocated under the first round will go toward women-owned SMEs (WSMEs) in low-income (IDA) countries and fragile and conflicted-affected situations.

The approved programs and projects span across all regions. Some 43% of the funding allocated to country and regional projects is expected to go toward Sub-Saharan Africa; the countries covered include Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zambia. Around 26% is expected to go toward South Asia, covering Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Some 20% of funds are expected to be used in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with the remaining amount anticipated to support engagements in East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The initial programs and projects are expected to help close to 46,000 women entrepreneurs in developing countries take their businesses to the next level.

Key elements of these programs and projects include:

  • Provision of comprehensive, ecosystem solutions to improve women’s entrepreneurship;
  • Activities in several fragile and conflict-affected situations, including in Cote d’Ivoire, Kosovo, Mali, Mozambique, and Yemen;
  • Leveraging global knowledge, data and evidence; and
  • Leveraging partnerships
  • Current We-Fi programs and projects

Second round of funding

In May 2019, the Governing Committee made its second funding allocations. The projects are expected to benefit 70,000 women- led businesses and mobilize nearly a billion dollars of additional public and private sector resources. The second round allocates $129 million for programs to boost women’s entrepreneurship that will be implemented by four multilateral development banks, the African Development Bank; the Asian Development; the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and the Inter-American Development Bank. Seventy percent of the current We-Fi funding allocation will benefit women entrepreneurs in low-income (IDA) countries and countries affected by fragility and conflict.