Under the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is planning to launch a new credit line for banks to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Egypt, according to Sammar Essmat, gender and private sector specialist for Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Essmat said that We-Fi, launched last summer, is a big fund dedicated to supporting women all over the world and works on several pillars, with World Bank participation in financing this fund.
We-Fi is an innovative new facility to advance women’s entrepreneurship and help women in developing countries by increasing their access to finance, markets, technology, and networks necessary to start and grow a business. We-Fi aims to leverage donor funding to unlock more than $1bn in International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and commercial financing by working with financial intermediaries and other market actors.
Essmat noted that, furthermore, the IFC is working on a women’s banking programme, in which the IFC works with banks to provide financial products, mainly loans, to female SMEs and business corporations.
Essmat told Daily News Egypt that the IFC has not launched talks with Egyptian banks in the current period, but that it has credit lines and loans for banks in Jordan and Lebanon and is negotiating with a bank in Tunisia.
Regarding Egypt’s low rank with regards to the gender inequality gap, ranking 134th out of 144 countries according to the Ease of Doing Business 2017 index, Essmat noted that IFC is working on three aspects to fill the gap and improve Egypt’s ranking by next year.
She said that the first pillar will involve launching a campaign during March, April, and May, as International Women’s Day (IWD) will fall in this period. The campaign includes a number of seminars to discuss the legal barriers in some Arab countries—mainly Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and other countries—that hinder women’s economic empowerment, with politicians and policy makers.
The second pillar, she added, is access to financing for women entrepreneurs and helping them launch their businesses.
“The third pillar is persuading major companies to increase the percentage of female labour in their business,” Essmat revealed. “In Egypt, we are currently working with a famous supply chain company to provide jobs for women and, in that manner, decrease the inequality in work and salaries between men and women.”