Skip to content Skip to footer

Strengthening the Business case for Lending to Women owned/led businesses in Africa

The prevalence of female entrepreneurship has shown an upward trend in sub-Saharan Africa, with some 58% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa owned by women (World Bank DATE). Nevertheless, women-owned firms persistently experience slower growth rates compared to men-owned enterprises. One of the factors limiting women SME growth is a lack of financial resources. While accessing finance poses a difficulty for all small and medium-sized enterprises, it is particularly pronounced for women owners. In 2022, the Trade and Development Bank, the finance deficit for women-owned enterprises is projected to reach up to USD 50 billion. There are other factors that contribute to this phenomenon, encompassing social and cultural standards that have historically impeded women’s ability to possess assets that could serve as collateral when seeking financing from financial organisations.

While it is recognised that SMEs can provide a strong pathway to improving economic performance in Africa, there is an urgent need to deploy diverse innovative approaches to invest sustainably in women’s businesses. In order for these to be scalable and sustainable, digitalization is key.

Our proposed session will explore various innovative approaches being used by financial institutions in Africa investing in women’s owned/led businesses. This will include gender inclusive digital lending services (drawing on Mozambique and Uganda experiences) and the use of gender bonds as a means of channelling patient capital to women’s businesses (a case study of the Jasiri bond of NMB bank, Tanzania). The session will give opportunities for the audience to ask questions on how to design gender inclusive bundled services that also prioritise digital literacy.

The session is being curated by the FSD Network’s Gender Collaborative Programme. This Programme works with the 10 Financial Sector Deepening entities to overcome the policy, regulatory, infrastructure, service provision and norms-related barriers that prevent women from fully benefiting from expanding financial access in their countries.