BEVERLY HILLS October 13, (THEWILL) – Donor countries have officially launched a World Bank group, the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, We-Fi, following the inaugural meeting of its governing council.
At the G20 leaders’ summit in Hamburg, Germany three months ago, the group had announced the creation of We-Fi, an innovative new facility to advance women’s entrepreneurship and help women in developing countries increase their access to the finance, markets, technology, and networks necessary to start and grow a business.
The aim of We-Fi is to leverage donor funding to unlock more than $1 billion in International Financial Institution, IFI, and commercial financing by working with financial intermediaries, funds and other market actors.
The response from the international community has been remarkable and immediate, which goes to show the importance of increasing women’s economic empowerment and scales up efforts to help women open and grow businesses.
We-Fi, in a statement issued on Thursday said it already has more than $340 million in donor commitments – exceeding our target by $100 million.
We-Fi, which was invited to create the facility by the United States and Germany, is a collaboration among the governments of Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom.
Part of the statement is reproduced below…
We-Fi fills an important gap and gives us a major global platform to increase access to capital. It is the first significant fund committed to aligning country-level reforms with private investment. While we invest in projects and programs that support women-led businesses, we will work with governments to address legal and regulatory barriers that stifle women entrepreneurs and women-led firms. We-Fi will build on and implement lessons on what works to start and grow sustainable female owned/led firms, collect key data from the public and private sector, and support innovation and learning for results at scale.
Currently, 70 percent of women-owned, small and medium-size businesses in the developing world can’t access the financing they need. They are either shut out of financial institutions or can only get high-interest, short-term loans, resulting in a nearly $300 billion annual credit deficit to women-owned businesses. They also face other constraints, including limited access to technology, a lack of networks and knowledge resources, and legal and policy obstacles to business ownership and development.
By harnessing the public and private sector, We-Fi provides an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that women entrepreneurs in developing countries have a real and fair chance at success. We know that everyone benefits when women have the resources they need to fully participate in our economies and societies. There are many challenges to women’s entrepreneurship, but also many successes, and there has never been a more important time to make a concerted push for women entrepreneurs.
On the occasion of the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, we would like to reiterate our commitment to knocking down the unique barriers facing women entrepreneurs. We-Fi is open for business, and we look forward to seeing the results of these valuable and productive investments.
“We-Fi is officially open for business,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said. “I’m confident that We-FI can harness the tremendous enthusiasm to unlock finance for women entrepreneurs in developing countries, and break down the legal and regulatory barriers that prevent women from starting and growing businesses. Our mission – to end poverty and increase prosperity – can’t be accomplished unless we tap the full potential of women entrepreneurs.”
“The progress that the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (WeFi) has made over the past few months is encouraging and exciting. WeFi is officially operational, and I look forward to continuing my work with the World Bank Group via this facility to support women entrepreneurs around the globe and remove existing barriers to their growth and success,” said Ivanka Trump, Advisor to the President, The White House
“Getting more women engaged in work is an economic and social priority. The We-Fi will address many of the technological and financial barriers that hold back women entrepreneurs’ creative and innovative contributions to growth, resilience and stability. My government is proud to partner with the World Bank and others to help unlock this potential,” said Prime Minister of Australia, Hon. Malcolm Turnbull
“Canada is proud to support the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, which helps provide women in developing countries with the tools and resources they need to succeed as business leaders and make a real difference in their communities. Women entrepreneurs are vital to our ongoing prosperity. They create jobs, advance gender equality, and help build economies that work for everyone. When women entrepreneurs succeed, everyone benefits,” said The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
“We-Fi is innovative. It’s ambitious. And it addresses a critical challenge that has to be addressed if we are to forge sustainable growth globally. By levelling the entrepreneurial playing field, we will not only experience much needed economic growth and job opportunities, we will empower women to the benefit of all. Economic empowerment of women is an aim in itself and a game-changer for development: Women hold an enormous potential that must be unleashed. When more women get equal rights, opportunities and free choice, everybody wins,” said Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tørnæs
“We know that countries can only succeed if women have equal opportunities and equal rights both in life and in the economy. Without equal participation of women and girls we will not reach the Sustainable Development Goals. The We-Fi is a good step forward towards closing gaps for women in developing countries with respect to their access to finance, knowledge and networks. The decision to set up the Facility was taken at the G20 Summit in Hamburg. I would like to congratulate the World Bank on the swift launch of the We-Fi,” said Chancellor Merkel of Germany
“I often say that, if Lehman Brothers had been “Lehman Brothers and Sisters,” the collapse would not have happened. …I am convinced that women’s power is needed to advance economy. We also support women in starting business…Regardless of country or working area, we will support women willing to play an active part in society,” said Japanese Prime Minister Abe
“We are very pleased with the new Women Entrepreneurs Financing Initiative. The Netherlands has been at the forefront of the fight for equal rights for women for decades. Economic empowerment is the best way out of poverty, to equality and to inclusive economic growth,” said the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte
“Women’s full participation in the labour market is one of the keys to the successful implementation of the SDGs, and therefore our common responsibility. Norway is proud to support the Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative. We know very well how important women’s participation and gender equality are for economic growth. If we fail to empower women, we will pay the price and our countries’ economic performance will suffer. Successfully promoting women’s entrepreneurship will require overcoming constraints at many levels. The Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative has a vital role to play in facilitating women’s access to finance and ownership of assets,” said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg
REPUBLIC OF KOREA:
“I would like to reiterate the commitment of the Government and the people of the Republic of Korea to people-centered development on the basis of gender equality around the world. In this regard, I sincerely wish this new and important initiative would bear fruit in our joint efforts to assist women enterpreneurs to achieve their dreams and thus give hope to those who are in need and under-privileged,” said H.E. Moon Jae-In, President of the Republic of Korea
“This facility will help transform millions of lives and give new opportunities to women from around the world who are filled with entrepreneurial spirit and talent. The United States is proud to help lead such an inspiring effort, and we are excited that this facility is now up and running,” said US President Donald Trump