Malawian women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are set to benefit from the African Development Bank (AfDB) financing that seeks to enhance the viability and sustainability of women entrepreneurship enablers.
In a statement, the AfDB says the initiative targets women-led business associations, incubators, accelerators and cooperatives that advance women’s entrepreneurship.
The entrepreneurship enablers or groups are eligible to apply for funding for innovative projects or programmes to bolster the skills of SMEs owned and run by women.
“This is an opportunity for direct and concrete support for women entrepreneurship enablers to scale up their growth and impact and advance women’s financial inclusion on the continent,” said Vanessa Moungar, AfDB director for gender, women and civil society.
The bank said it will assess applicants’ track record in supporting women SMEs, innovation and strong development impact as well as their capacity to mobilise other sources of funding.
Eligible organisations may request funding of between $100 000 (about K78 million) and $250 000 (about K193 million), provided through the bank’s Gender Equality Trust Fund.
Various studies show that women-led businesses lack financial and technical skills support to grow; hence, the bank’s help will mitigate some of the gaps.
In an interview on Tuesday, Chamber of Small and Medium Businesses Association executive secretary James Chiutsi said through the AfDB opportunity, they have already arranged all women entrepreneurs to access finance.
“It is not easy to access funding locally, as such, this comes as a huge boost, especially that women will be helped in groups, ensuring that benefits will trickle down to many people,” he said.
Chiutsi said normally, financial initiatives obtained locally are usually short- term, making long-term sustainability difficult.
On her part, National Association of Business Women chairperson Barbara Banda admitted that women, unlike men, struggle to access finance for their businesses because they lack equal opportunities such as land for collateral, which is largely registered by men in the family.
AfDB acknowledges that the enablers themselves often face challenges such as long-term growth plans and lack of financing, which reduce their reach, impact and sustainability.
“Women business enablers are critical to creating a viable enabling environment in which women entrepreneurs can grow and create businesses that generate jobs for the continent,” said Esther Dassanou, the programme manager.
The participants will be drawn from Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia.
The funding aims to strengthen the ecosystem for women’s entrepreneurship.