start up
Many incubators and venture capital funds do not yet tailor their workspaces, products, and services to women entrepreneurs. Image Credit: Pexels

IFC and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) on Wednesday launched ‘She Wins Arabia’ , an initiative to help women-led startups across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The initiative will support incubators, accelerators, and venture capital funds—through capacity building and training, among others—so they can better help women-led startups and businesses. IFC and ADGM will also provide the opportunity to women-led startups to pitch their business plans to a panel of judges to receive financing and mentorship opportunities from key ecosystem leaders and potential investors.

IFC and ADGM, the UAE-based financial center, will also work directly with women-led startups and businesses in the region to support them with building their business plans and refining their pitches to potential investors.

“The UAE has made significant strides in the field of women empowerment and increased women’s presence in leadership positions and corporate boards of directors,” said Mohamed Al Hussaini, the UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs. “IFC’s cooperation with the country to develop studies that support gender balance is another testament to the country’s constant efforts in this field, especially with the Cabinet’s direction to support small enterprises headed by Emirati women through microfinance, and empowering their transformation and integration within the SMEs sector while engaging them in e-commerce platforms.”

In a region where only 6 per cent of private equity and venture capital funding goes to female-led enterprises, initiatives such as She Wins Arabia can play an important role in empowering women entrepreneurs. In addition, many incubators and venture capital funds do not yet tailor their workspaces, products, and services to women entrepreneurs.

She Wins Arabia, which is supported by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (WeFi) and the government of the Netherlands, will be implemented in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, the UAE, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen. The initiative will culminate with a competition to enable women-led startups access support and finance across the region, and network with funds, incubators, and accelerators.

“MENA is brimming with talented women entrepreneurs whose ideas could help reshape the economies of the region,” said Makhtar Diop, IFC’s Managing Director. “Levelling the playing field, and making the start-up space more inclusive, is crucial for ensuring its growth and spurring economic development.”