IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is promoting increased participation of women in Africa’s private sector, helping them overcome long-standing barriers that prevent them from starting businesses or gaining employment opportunities open to their male counterparts.
As part of this effort, IFC hosted an Africa Gender Forum in Addis Ababa that brought together more than 50 women leaders, IFC clients, members of civil society and development partners to discuss best practices and challenges to scaling successful approaches.
Discussions also focused on ways to increase access to training and finance for women entrepreneurs, who own or partially own only about one third of Africa’s smaller businesses.
“Women’s economic empowerment is essential to achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. When women entrepreneurs are supported with loans and new skills, they are able to turn their ideas into small and medium-sized businesses that generate economic benefits for their families and communities. An investment in women is an investment in the community,” said David Usher, Canadian Ambassador to Ethiopia.
“IFC recognizes the need to tap the vast potential of women as drivers of inclusive economic growth and shared prosperity, and has made gender one of its cross-cutting strategic priorities. We need to support and harness the positive effect that women’s economic empowerment and leadership can have on our economy,” said Adamou Labara, IFC Resident Representative in Ethiopia.
A recently published IFC report, ‘Investing in Women’s Employment Good for Business, Good for Development’, found that investing in women’s employment and improved working conditions can bring dramatic benefits to both women and businesses. IFC also runs a number of programs that promote increased participation of women in business, including Women in Business which has helped over 3,000 African women entrepreneurs gain access to $27.5 million in financing.
During the Gender Forum, several women spoke of how they or their employers are helping women gain a foothold in the private sector.
Constance Swaniker, Accents and Art CEO explained how she benefited from a collateral lending system IFC helped establish in Ghana. She said that the registry allowed her to use her machinery to access finance, which helped her create thirty new jobs.
Brenda Ochieng, Human Resources Manager of Finlays Kenya, a horticulture company, highlighted Finlays strategic approach to promoting greater gender equality among its employees. Finlays achieved cultural change in the workplace by developing clear policies, training for supervisors, vocational health and safety training and support from senior management.