Women in the country have decried lack of access to affordable capital and restrictive lending conditions which they said are hampering their progress in business compared to their male counterparts.
The businesswomen raised the concerns during a Women in Business Summit held in Lilongwe on Monday organised by the National Association of Business Women (Nabw) in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare and other partners.
The summit sought to raise awareness on gender gaps in financing and procurement, promote workable models that will enable women to access financing and partake in procurement systems without many challenges.
The summit, which was officially opened by President Lazarus Chakwera, also sought to mobilise support for financial inclusion and gender-responsive public and private procurement agenda.
Nabw chief executive officer Barbara Banda said women in business experience serious “gendered challenges”.
She said women entrepreneurs experience limited access to procurement opportunities and financial services and that the problem has been compounded by Covid-19.
Banda called for strategic support for women in business to be effectively integrated into viable supply chains and financial services.
She said: “Women should no longer be underdogs; we want women to come out in a new trajectory where women businesses are big.
“This requires huge capital, so when women get capital, they need opportunities and this is where government needs to come up with a deliberate gender responsive procurement quota for women.”
Banda lamented that despite the availability of financial capital in banks and some lending institutions, women in business face entry point barriers.
African Women Leader’s Network in Malawi chairperson Emma Kaliya said women empowerment is key to achieving the Malawi 2063 Vision and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
United Nations resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres said no economy can grow to its full potential unless both women and men participate fully.
In his remarks, President Chakwera assured women that his government is working on ensuring fair share of government business; hence, an SME Order was gazetted to award certain business to small businesses to create a level-playing field.
“This is a huge opportunity for you all because I have done this to put money in your pockets for your advancement,” he said.