The European Investment Bank (EIB) launched a gender-lending programme of $1.1 billion-SheInvest, at the ongoing Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is designed to give women in Africa especially entrepreneurs better access to loans and encourage them to play more active roles in their economies.
Ambroise Fayolle, EIB Vice-President in charge of development operations, said that “unlocking the potential of women is key to boosting Africa’s economic growth.” He noted that in several African countries women are excluded from the financial and labour markets, making them unable to contribute fully to their continent’s development.
Fayolle declared that “as the bank of the European Union, we are committed to deliver on gender equality and are proud to be backing this important mission through the new SheInvest initiative.”
SheInvest is also targeted at promoting female entrepreneurship in the second most populous continent in the world.
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 Women’s Report stated that female entrepreneurship rates in sub-Saharan Africa are the highest in the world. In Rwanda, 42 percent of enterprises in the country are headed by women and they account for 30% of the nation’s GDP.
However, female entrepreneurs face a number of constraints on the African continent such as lack of capital, a dearth of collateral, lack of financial literacy and discrimination which is distinct to their gender.
The most predominant constraint being discrimination has caused a lot of ‘women-owned’ businesses to shut down. Although discriminatory behaviour cannot be directly observed, some women confess to being victims of discrimination which has drastically affected their businesses.
Nevertheless, SheInvest seeks to boost gender equality through gender-smart investments that will solely benefit women and boost their entrepreneurial ventures. Capacity building and mentoring of women entrepreneurs will also be rendered by SheInvest’s technical assistance.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) also revealed that three further agreements were signed to boost sustainable development in Africa. The EIB has supported investment in Africa for more than 50 years and last year over €3.3 billion was pumped into the private sector in different African countries.
By Treasure Nnabugwu.