By Josephine Akaerr, Special Correspondent
In celebration of International Women’s Day, and to mark the rollout of the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) Guarantee for Growth programme, the African Development Bank and the African Guarantee Fund are showcasing the first beneficiaries of the AFAWA Guarantee for Growth programme – an innovation aiming to unlock up to US$3 billion in loans to women-led small and medium size enterprises (SMEs).
The beneficiaries are taking part in an online panel event, co-organized by AFAWA and the African Guarantee Fund on Monday 8 March. Under the theme, “Women entrepreneurs: key drivers of economic growth,” the virtual session centers on how the AFAWA Guarantee for Growth program works with financial institutions to address the financial and non-financial needs of African women entrepreneurs, by offering access to finance, providing technical assistance and create an enabling environment to promote policy changes and regulatory reforms.
“The African Development Bank has mobilized its resources, and the support of its global partners, in what is to date, our most ambitious effort ever to change the landscape on access to finance for African women entrepreneurs,” said the Bank’s Director for Women, Gender and Civil Society, Vanessa Moungar.
The first participants in the programme include; the founder of a company manufacturing biodegradable and affordable sanitary towels, and waste incinerators Catherine Mumbua Wanjoya,; the CEO of a beauty and hair care franchise institution Terry Mungai; Mbuaya Kalenga Mdhy, who heads a semi-industrial sewing company; and hotelier Bijour Esther Monga Ilunga Kazadi.
The AFAWA Guarantee for Growth programme targets financial institutions to increase their appetite to lend to women who are known to be better payers, and who reinvest up to 90 per cent of their income in the education, health and nutrition of their family and community.
The programme de-risks women entrepreneurs and enhances financial institutions’ appetite in lending to SMEs. Supported by the Group of Seven (G7) countries as well as the Netherlands and Sweden, the AFAWA Guarantee for Growth program is implemented in collaboration with the African Guarantee Fund, which works to facilitate access to finance for SMEs in Africa.
“We have realized when talking to financial institutions that they don’t see AFAWA as a favor that we are doing to women. It is a huge business opportunity to tap into a customer segment that has not been explored before,” said CEO of the African Guarantee Fund, Jules Ngankam.
Esther Dassanou, Manager of AFAWA said financial institutions in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are signing on to the programme, and that the programme could be a game changer across the continent.
“The AFAWA Guarantee for Growth programme is different and innovative from what is on the market, in the sense that it tackles all the major challenges that women entrepreneurs face in accessing financing and growing their business at the same time,” Dassanou added.