Global Women's Forum
$40million incentive project for women entrepreneurs launched at Global Women’s Forum Dubai Image Credit: Dubai Media Office Twitter

Dubai: The World Bank Group announced two new initiatives to improve access to start-up financing and e-commerce markets for women entrepreneurs, at the Global Women’s Forum Dubai (GWFD) 2020 on Sunday.

At the at the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Summit held during the GWFD, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and We-Fi launched the ScaleX programme to incentivize accelerators to support start-up businesses led by women.

The programme will incentivize emerging markets accelerators to work with women-led businesses by providing performance-based payments of US$25,000 for every woman entrepreneur that raises US$1 million from investors in start-up funding.

These bonuses provide an avenue for venture capital funds to commit to investing in women entrepreneurs in emerging markets and will catalyze a total of $40million into women-led startups in its pilot phase.

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“Starting and growing a business is one of the most powerful tools for women to overcome poverty and build better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said David Malpass, World Bank Group President, a key speaker at the Forum, said in a statement.

“Removing regulatory barriers along with obstacles to access to finance and markets can give women-led businesses the opportunity to succeed.”

Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Regional Vice President for the Middle East and Africa, stated that ScaleX programme is being launched to help women entrepreneurs in emerging markets to access funding at a crucial stage to grow their businesses.

“This is a win-win for accelerators, investors, and women entrepreneurs.”

Speaking exclusively to Gulf News on the sidelines of the GWFD, Wendy Teleki, head of We-Fi Secretariat, said termed ScaleX “the first step” to help close the gender financing gap by helping build early stage financing for women entrepreneurs.

IFC research shows that women entrepreneurs in emerging markets face a daunting gender finance gap with only 11% of enterprises that actually attain seed funding being female-led.

New research shows that despite women leading half the start-ups that participate in accelerators—entities designed to train and support the development of start-ups to become investment ready—they continue to face greatly unequal access to capital.

Teleki said the new programme is “meant to expand the number of women who get funding at the conclusion of the accelerator programme.”

“It is an incentive programme [to] work with a broader array of accelerators to help them focus more on getting women to the end goal which is getting them financing,” she said.

We-Fi, housed at the World Bank, has so far allocated close to US$250 million to tackle challenges women entrepreneurs face in developing countries. The allocations aim to reach 114,000 women entrepreneurs. We-Fi is a powerful catalyst for additional investment, helping mobilize more than US$2.6 billion in additional public and private sector funds.

E-learning training for e-commerce

The World Bank and UPS also announced today a new partnership to help women entrepreneurs in the MENA region to grow their businesses by assisting them in successfully leveraging e-commerce platforms.

UPS will provide e-learning modules on different e-commerce topics to help women-owned and women-led small and medium enterprises seeking to expand their businesses across borders.

The project will support an estimated 750 women entrepreneurs and will train a cadre of e-commerce advisors in each country who can provide tailored assistance and coaching to businesses. The partnership will work with entrepreneurs in Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia.

“By making e-commerce platforms more accessible, this partnership addresses a key constraint faced by women business leaders in reaching new markets,” Ferid Belhaj, World Bank MENA Vice President, said in a statement.

“E-commerce platforms create opportunities, and we must ensure these opportunities are open to women-owned businesses across the region.”

Teleki said the training programme will work across the region to bring women up to the level of being able to access more e-commerce.

“As part of the programme, we have also been doing a lot of work in analytics around the regulatory environment…How do we make sure that women are on a level-playing ground, which is a big challenge in the MENA region.”

We-Fi has made allocations to programmes being implemented by the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank. the Islamic Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.

The World Bank and IFC We-Fi programmes (US$75 million in allocations) are working with private and public partners in 24 countries via 27 investment and advisory projects to enable women entrepreneurs to access finance and markets and amplify those efforts with global research, partnerships, and policy advocacy.