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International Women’s Day: AfDB Private Sector Operations Create Opportunities for African Women


Alleviating poverty through entrepreneurship is a key tool for economic empowerment of women in Africa. Women represent over half of Africa’s population and have the potential to transform economies into thriving enterprises. Women entrepreneurs and leaders are the key pillar of an inclusive, private sector-led growth in Africa.

Promotion of women entrepreneurs as a part of SME development programs has become one of the AfDB priorities. It is within this framework that the Bank’s private sector operations is committed to make significant investments in supporting projects that contribute in the promotion of gender equality and women entrepreneurship mainstreaming in Africa.

With regard to enhancing women empowerment in key economic sectors, the Bank’s private sector operations is proactively developing and coordinating actions with multilateral and bilateral development finance institutions, regional development banks and private sector financial institutions through specific programs, initiatives and projects.

Below selected examples of dynamic women who have achieved professional successes through projects financed jointly by AfDB and its partners.

The First Black Woman to Own a Manganese Mine in South Africa

In 2011, The private sector operations was involved in investing a €150-million senior loan to jointly finance one of the biggest greenfields manganese projects in Northern Cape, South Africa. The sponsor of the Kalagadi Manganese project, Kalahari Resources, is 67 per cent owned by women groups, including the Women Development Bank of South Africa, whose core business focus is “ensuring that poor rural women are given the tools to free themselves from the chains of poverty”. The project is run by Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, Executive Chairperson of Kalagadi Manganese (Pty) Ltd.

Born as the youngest of four children to an impoverished family, Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, has a background different to the average mining executive. Today she presides over a multi-million dollar joint venture deal with ArcelorMittal.

Daphne never accepts “no” for an answer and her passionate belief in women’s rights, has helped her get to where she is today – “a leading lady” in a society traditionally dominated by men.

The manganese project managed by Daphne Mashile-Nkosi will have significant developmental impact on the Northern Cape, one of South Africa’s poorest areas. The AfDB helped Kalagadi Manganese to develop an SME Linkage Program building capacities of SMEs and promote women entrepreneurship, in line with the Bank’s gender policy to support gender equality, women empowerment, development of women businesses and entrepreneurs.

Memorable quotes

“I am passionate about women’s rights and the empowerment of women. I sincerely believe that women have a meaningful role to play in the mining industry if they’re prepared to make the necessary commitment. I believe I have a responsibility to empower women as much as possible and to break down barriers inherent in the mining industry. It is for this reason that I insist that 50per cent of all our employees must be women – even on site.” – Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, speaking at the Women Mining Ingxoxo.

Supporting Access to Finance for Women Entrepreneurs in the DRC

Rose Uyaka Ukunda, mother of two children, is a co-owner, with a female friend, of a small “Bazin” traditional clothing shop in the center of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. To grow her business and ensure the purchasing of her supplies from Western African countries including Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Senegal and Togo, she needed financing.

As a woman entrepreneur in Kinshasa, finding access to finance is not an easy task. But Rose benefitted from the support of Advans Banque Congo (ABC), a bank serving micro, small and medium enterprises based in urban areas in the DRC that received US $2.42 million private equity from the African Development Bank. ABC clients include a number of small businesses often run by women.

Rose is now at her 4th cycle of credit from the first of US $7,300 in 2010 to the latest one of US $25,000 in 2012 – all of which she reimbursed over period of 18 to 20 months. Thanks to the ABC support, she opened another shop in Kisangani, a city 1,750 kilometres from Kinshasa, managed by her sister, who can benefit from the expansion of Rose’s business.  

ABC also received a US $940 000 technical assistance grant from the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA), funded by AfDB, the Government of Japan, the Government of Austria and the Austrian Development Bank to build ABC capacities and allow them to train local executives permitting further support to women entrepreneurs in the DRC.

Memorable quotes

“In the future I want it to be bigger, and one day you will come here, and we will have here three or four stores.” – Rose Uyaka Ukunda, entrepreneur.


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