The Common Market for East and Central Africa (Comesa) says it plans to open a national women’s bank— to help women access business loans and other financial assistance in the country.
Comesa has plans to open a leather design studio in the country to boost the leather sector.
The plans were unveiled by Comesa secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya in an interview with Business News on Tuesday.
He said the bank will help address issues to do with access to finance especially among women, which for many years has been a major challenge facing Malawi SMEs.
The opening of the bank will also go a long way to assist women to establish and grow their business in the various sectors of the economy. Ngwenya also hoped the institution can push up Malawi’s competitiveness on the global market.
He said: “We hope to provide financing to women in Malawi through this bank. It should however be noted that this initiative will be implemented in all the member States of Comesa and that even men will be able to access finance from the bank only that it shall be in smaller allocations than women.”
The Comesa SG explained that the bank is an initiative of the Comesa Women Empowerment Fund which intends to source $8 billion financing from the Swiss Equity Fund.
“We hope the project to start materialising by the end of this year because, already, we have 3 000 Comesa Women Empowerment Fund members in the country and we have already brought this to the attention of the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development in Malawi. This is just a question of vision and focus,” Ngwenya said.
Malawi has over 10 commercial banks but financial inclusion reports show that most women do not get loans or other financial assistance from them for projects. This, in part, is due to the insistence by banks for collateral security for loans, yet most women’s assets are registered in their husbands’ names.
That why the opening a women’s bank will be good news to business women in the country as available statistics from the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) shows that men access more credit from financial institutions at 65 percent compared to women at 35 percent.
Ngwenya also said the Comesa Leather Institute in collaboration with the Leather Association of Malawi has plans to open a 3D leather design studio in the country.
“We hope to boost the performance of the leather sector in Malawi with this studio as it will be using modern emerging technologies to produce customised leather products such as shoes.
“The challenge that we have right now is designing shoes that fit properly,” Ngwenya explained adding, the challenge disrupts production models for footwear.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Joseph Mwanamvekha said in an interview in Blantyre on Tuesday that the satellite leather design studio will be a game-changer in the leather sector.
“Malawi has been losing out due to the lack of capacity. The studio surely will be a game-changer in the leather sector,” he said.
According to Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism in 2016 alone, Malawi imported $10 million ( about K7.3 billion) while exports accounted for $32 000 (aboutKK23 million) worth of footwear and other leather products.