Women-led businesses are more vulnerable to closure than those led by men in the era of the novel coronavirus, due to women’s limited access to finance, shifts in consumer behavior, and the increase in women’s household care responsibilities as a result of extended lockdowns.
All across the continent, the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking economic havoc and hitting women the hardest, with women-led Small and Medium-sized Enterprises(SMEs) at greater risk of closure as they tend to be smaller and on average, operate in lower profit margin, service-based industries.
These and other important findings of a new policy brief highlighting policy solutions to support women-led businesses in Africa in a post COVID-19 world, were released during a webinar organized Wednesday 15 July by the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) (https://bit.ly/321doeT) program, working with UN Women (www.UNWomen.org) and ImpactHER (www.ImpactHER.org).
“The compilation and analysis of real time data is crucial as Africa responds to the pandemic. The surveying of women-led businesses from across sectors and industries provides opportunity to have targeted interventions aimed at keeping these vital contributors to African economies afloat,” said Esther Dassanou, AFAWA Coordinator.
The brief, titled ‘Transformative policy solutions to support women-led businesses in Africa in a post Covid-19 world,” contained results of an ImpactHER survey of more than 1,300 women-owned SMEs in 30 African countries on the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. Over 200 participants joined in the virtual webinar, which was moderated by UN Women’s Elena Ruiz, Women’s Economic Empowerment Regional Policy Advisor for West and Central Africa.
“The policy brief and the discussion have put on the table strategies that work for women entrepreneurs in the region. We hope this will contribute to make sure that women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses are at the centre of COVID19 recovery plans, and to help governments and other actors build a post-COVID economy that challenges, rather than reproduces, gender inequalities,” Ruiz noted.
Panelists in Wednesday’s seminar were Ada Udechukwu, Head of Women’s Banking at Access Bank, Nigeria; Efe Ukala, Founder of ImpactHer; Sylvia Natukunda, Founder & CEO of yogurt company Farm Reap in Uganda; Kosi Yankey, Executive Director of the National Board for Small
Scale Industries in Ghana and Dr. Boutheina Ben Yaghlane Ben Slimane, Director General, Caisse of Deposits & Consignments in Tunisia.
They shared perspectives from government, private sector and banking on how women-led businesses in tourism, trade, retail, hospitality, education, personal care and similar sectors have suffered as result of COVID-19, and offered recommendations for immediate, short- and medium-term solutions to mitigate the impact on women-led businesses.
“ImpactHER commissioned the survey to allow it to provide practical solutions to women-led businesses,” Efe Ukala, its founder, said. “So far, ImpactHER has offered resilience training, custom business advisory services including financial forecasting, valuation, company restructuring, rebranding, etc., technology tools such as e-commerce websites which are critical to ensure the viability of women entrepreneurs in a post-COVID era.” ImpactHER has provided such support to over 3,000 women entrepreneurs in over 25 African countries, Ukala noted.
The panelists also showcased solutions in action, such as the African Development Bank’s recent approval of a loan of 264 million euros to help support the Moroccan government to mitigate the health and socio-economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. Parts of these funds will go towards mobilizing financial resources for women-owned enterprises whose cash flow has deteriorated due to declining activity. Through Bank Al-Maghrib, women-owned SMEs will have access to guarantees that cover 95% of the credit amount and enables banks to rapidly put together exceptional overdrafts to finance the target companies’ operating capital needs.
“The fight against the pandemic requires public and private sector involvement to enhance women entrepreneurs’ ability to bounce back from the crisis. Efforts such as the one in Morocco as well as Tunisia and Ghana, should be replicated throughout the continent,” Dassanou said.
The discussions also showed how Coronavirus not only potentially exacerbates already existing inequalities between men and women, but has led to other hurdles for women, including limited access to finance, key networks, information, skills gaps, as well as limited control over assets that they can leverage to obtain financing.
“The AFAWA initiative’s collaboration with UN Women and ImpactHER to provide solutions has great potential to influence policy,” Vanessa Moungar, Bank Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society, noted.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).
African Development Bank
Communication and External Relations Department
African Development Bank
Hawa Seydou Diop
UN Women’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa
The Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) (https://bit.ly/321doeT), is an African Development Bank-led initiative which aims to reduce the USD 42 Billion gender gap in access to finance and unleash women’s entrepreneurial capacity across the continent. AFAWA’s holistic approach focuses on 3 pillars: (a) access to finance, (b) technical assistance, to financial institutions as well as women entrepreneurs, and © policy dialogue to reform the legal and regulatory frameworks affecting women businesses. Through AFAWA AFDB will aim to unlock up to USD 5 billion in the next 5 to 6 years for women entrepreneurs in Africa.
ImpactHER (www.ImpactHER.org), an impact driven organization that focuses on bridging the $42 billion financing gap for women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa. The organization achieves its mission by helping African women business owners access institutional capital for their business, scale their businesses while also helping them tackle business operational challenges, access new markets through the use of technology, and become investor-ready. With a community of over 35,000 African women-led SME across 55 African countries, ImpactHER has trained over 8000 African women entrepreneurs in 48 African countries, on a pro bono basis, on how to run successful businesses and become investor-ready. ImpactHER’s intervention has launched thousands of African women-led businesses online, helped African women access new foreign markets, and connected African women-led SMEs to institutional capital.
About UN Women:
UN Women (www.UNWomen.org), grounded in the vision of equality enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, works for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls; the empowerment of women; and the achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security. Across Africa, UN Women supports women entrepreneurs and women-led businesses as a priority intervention to achieve women’s economic empowerment.