To put an end to the financial exclusion amongst woman entrepreneur in Africa, participants at the recent African Women Economic Summit (AWES) held in Lagos, have recommended that more assistance should be given to women entrepreneurs in accessing capital.

The delegates are seeking to respond to the challenges on why women are not able to access credit despite the huge pool of capital allocated to women by financial institutions. They discussed this during the seminar on ‘Finding solutions to the Challenge of Capital Deployment” at the Second African Women Economic summit, the first AWES took place in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2010.

Delegates at the 2nd summit blamed the poor access of credit for women entrepreneurs on the absence of relevant information on credit opportunities. Lack of technical capacity on the part of both financial institutions and women entrepreneurs were also identified as challenges.

The seminar which was co-organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the New Faces New Voices – featured hundreds of women entrepreneurs including company CEOs, bankers, industrialists, gender activists, top government officials representing the continent’s five regions.

As a solution to the identified business predicament, Kiendal Buritt of South Africa’s Summit Development Group, Africa, posits that investing in banks and providing strategic support will greatly enhance banks’ ability to service Small and Medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“We support SME-centric banks and we provide the necessary technical support in assessing risks. We want to create a business model for the banks that help them adequately assess risk of SMEs,’’ she said. The support also includes helping women entrepreneurs build confidence and resilience.

Donald Kaberuka, AfDB President, also sent a message confirming the Bank’s commitment to continue to partner AWES in efforts to scale up women’s participation in the economic development of the continent.

Kaberuka explained that Women have always played a pivotal role in the socio-economic development of Africa.

As farmers, entrepreneurs, traders and innovators, they are key economic actors in the continent, adding, “I believe, strongly believe investing in women differently is essential to revitalize our economies.

Meanwhile, International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) global financial department’s Patience Marime Ball, revealed that the IFC plans to invest in a million SMEs with about 25 percent of the funds going to women entrepreneurs. She said what is important is how to get private equity funds to deploy funds quickly, adding that the IFC has about $2.8 billion committed to private equity funds with about $1.5 billion going into SMEs.

She enjoined New Faces New Voices, AfDB, together with the IFC and private equity funds to create a network platform towards increasing funds for women entrepreneurs.

The AfDB’s principal investment officer, Aude Apetey, said her bank is at the forefront of promoting SMEs through its investment with SME-focused private equity funds. As a results-oriented institution, the AfDB regularly reviews the performance of private equity funds and financial institutions to which it makes loans.

However, Yetunde Allen, managing partner at Lateral Links, Nigeria, pointed out that financial institutions are not out to help women but for their self-interest. She said only five percent of SMEs funding comes from the formal financial institutions in Nigeria.

She emphasised that financial inclusion goes beyond allocating credit to women entrepreneurs but also entails insurance, leasing and other support services that enhance the activities of entrepreneurs.

“There is a missing business support system. We need to build a business support ecosystem”.

The seminar is part of the quest to campaign vigorously for the economic empowerment of their genre as the surest means to banish poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth.

Giving the key-note address at the seminar is Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, who emphasised that women’s economic empowerment was no longer an option because investing in women who constitute half of the continent’s population was the only way to sustain the growth recorded across the continent at this times.

“Women are the third largest emerging markets in the globe. Women are the third largest sources of growth. One of the fastest ways to sustain current growth is to invest in women,” said the Nigeria Finance Minister.

She suggested that a specialised bank be established to cater to the financial interest of women, who do not have access to investment finance a host of reasons.

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