World Bank Launches Women Empowerment Facility ‘We-Fi’

Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President

Aimed at increasing women’s economic empowerment, a new World Bank Group facility known as the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) has been launched.

We-Fi was launched October 12, 2017, at the ongoing World Bank Annual meeting, following the inaugural meeting of its governing council.

The World Bank facility seeks to promote women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries by granting them easy access to “finance, markets, technology, and networks necessary to start and grow a business.”

By partnering financial intermediaries, We-Fi will raise more than $1 billion in International Financial Institution (IFI) through donor funding.

The facility is a collaboration among governments of Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

We-Fi already boasts more than $340 million in donor commitments.

The World Bank states that “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.”

It is expected that We-Fi’s emergence will provide “an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that women entrepreneurs in developing countries have a real and fair chance at success.”

The Bank assumes 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.

President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim said of the launch:

“We-Fi is officially open for business. 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.”

Advisor to the United States President, Ivanka Trump said “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.”

We-Fi donor countries gave the following statements:

“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

“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.

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