AWES Delegates Mull Solution to Women’s Financial Exclusion

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Delegates at the just concluded African Women Economic Summit (AWES) held in Lagos have proposed way out for financial exclusion of women in the continent. At a seminar on ‘Finding solutions to the Challenge of Capital Deployment,’ the delegates agreed that women entrepreneurs need more assistance towards assessing capital. The sought to respond to why women are not able to assess credit despite the huge pool of capital allocated to women by financial institutions.

Absence of relevant information for credit opportunities, lack of technical capacity on the part of both financial institutions and women entrepreneurs were identified as the primary reason for poor access to credit by women. Ms Kiendal Buritt of South Africa’s Summit Development Group, Africa, said that investing in banks and providing strategic support will greatly enhance banks’ ability to service 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 she said also includes helping women entrepreneurs build confidence and resilience.

Ms Patience Marime Ball of the IFC’s Global Financial Department, said the IFC plans to invest in 1 million SMEs with about 25 percent of it 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 $1.5billion going into SMEs. She advised New Faces New Voices, the co-organisers of the summit to work with the IFC and Private Equity Funds to create a network platform towards increasing funds for women entrepreneurs.

AfDB’s Principal Investment Officer, Aude Apetey, said the Bank is at the forefront of promoting SMEs through its investment with SME-focused Private Equity Funds. As a result oriented institution, Ms Apetey said the AfDB regularly reviews the performance of Private Equity Funds and financial institutions that it grants loans adding that there is an effective feedback mechanism that helps the Bank to keep track of its activities.

However, Yetunde Allen, Managing Partner, Lateral Links, Nigeria, said that financial institutions are not out to help women but out for their self interest. She said only 5 percent of SMEs funding comes from the formal financial institutions in Nigeria. Ms Yetunde 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’’ she said.