Abuja, Oct. 18, 2023: Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) Initiative has secured more than 1.2 billion dollars in financing commitments for on-lending to women-led SMEs in 32 African countries.
Mr Lamin Barrow, the Director-General, African Development Bank (AfDB) Nigeria Country Department reported at the 5th Edition of the AFAWA Finance Series hosted in Nigeria.
The event was co-organised with the African Guarantee Fund and the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.
According to Barrow, the event speaks to our commitment to promoting women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion in Nigeria, and across the African continent.
He said the AFAWA initiative sought to increase women’s access to finance by closing the 42 billion dollars financing gap.
”Our goal is to mobilise five billion dollars in financing for women – led businesses in Africa by 2026.
”Since its inauguration two years ago, AFAWA Initiative has secured more than 1.2 billion dollars in financing commitments for on lending to women-led SMEs in 32 countries across Africa,” he said.
Barrow quoted the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report 2022, as saying Nigeria ranked 123rd out of 146 countries surveyed.
He said this showed that more work needed to be done and the AFAWA Series represented a key platform for outreach, training and business engagement to advance the agenda to bridge that gap.
”The AfDB recognises Nigeria’s efforts to promote financial inclusion for women, especially through policies and programmes aimed at increasing access to financial services and enhancing financial literacy.
” However, in spite some progress registered in recent years, the gender financing gap remains huge, with women having a disproportionate access to financial services and facing acute barriers to financial inclusion.”
According to Barrow, research findings indicate that less than half of women in Nigeria use formal financial services, compared to 56 per cent for men.
He said women-led businesses were also typically informal and faced major challenges in accessing finance and growing their businesses.
According to the director-general, a Bank baseline study conducted in 2022 on the status of women entrepreneurs in Africa delved into the challenges women entrepreneurs face.
He said more significantly, the study proposed key principles for successful implementation of guarantee programmes in 16 African countries, including Nigeria.
He, therefore, emphasised that women economic empowerment was critical for achieving inclusive economic growth and building resilient societies.
Barrow, who said closing the gender gap would stimulate economic growth and reduce income inequality added that AfDB was spearheading several initiatives to enable women in Africa to thrive.
”As key stakeholders in Africa’s economic integration processes, we must support programmes that expand opportunities for women.
”We believe that support availed through the AFAWA initiative are an integral
part of the solution.
” The initiative, therefore, provides a robust platform to inform key stakeholders in government the financial and private sectors, civil society organisations and in the Development Partner community.
”About AFAWA’s innovative mechanisms for de-risking lending to women entrepreneurs,” Barrow said.
The director-general said through AFAWA, the Bank was changing the perception that women entrepreneurs were a risky investment.
Barrow acknowledged Nigeria’s commitment towards AFAWA-related activities.
He said AfDB was already supporting the private sector for enhanced access to finance mainly through risk sharing mechanism and our classic financing instruments.
”We believe that you are key to turning around this financing gap into an
investment opportunity and call on leaders in government, the financial sector and the Development community to join this partnership.
”Together, let’s create the enabling environment and tilt the financing to
unleash women’s full potential,” Barrow said.