Addis Ababa, 26 April 2018 (ECA) – The African Women’s Leadership Network’s second Women Leaders Forum for Africa’s Transformation ended in Addis Ababa Thursday with Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, announcing the establishment of a fund to promote African women entrepreneurs as economic and business leaders.
The fund will provide sustainable investment capital to women-owned and led businesses, Ms. Songwe said in her presentation to the forum, adding it would be managed and administered by women for African women.
She said women have proven themselves as entrepreneurs and drivers of the economy but hurdles, in particular corruption, continue to impede their growth.
“Access to finance by women is critical if we are to attain the sustainable development goals as putting money in the hands of women will surely guarantee its better utilization for household livelihoods and quality care for families and reduce vulnerabilities and disease burdens,” said Ms. Songwe to African women leaders attending the forum.
“Promoting women entrepreneurs involves tackling not only issues of access to finance and services, but considering social and cultural impediments faced by African women entrepreneurs. Challenges for African women seeking financing for business of whatever size is fraught with many difficulties.”
The ECA Chief said women’s economic advancement must ‘begin with us ending the scourge of corruption. We need women in leadership positions to see an end to corruption. Together we can win this fight and close the gender gap, especially through this fund for women by women. We need women at the bottom, in the middle and at the top’.
The fund would be called the African Women Leaders Fund.
The AWLN, which aims to enhance the leadership of women in the transformation of Africa in line with aspirations of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, at its inception last year committed to enhance women’s economic empowerment through the establishment of an African Women Leaders Fund and the ECA was asked to work on the issue.
In an earlier presentation on the fund, ECA’s Social Development Policy Division (SDPD) Director, Thoko Ruzvidzo, said in establishing the fund and defining its strategy, the leadership will adopt a multi-layered prioritization of women, including support for women fund managers as well as direct support for women entrepreneurs, to empower women to ascend to business and economic leadership positions in their communities.
“The goal of the fund will be to promote African women entrepreneurs as economic and business leaders, by providing sustainable investment capital to women-owned and led businesses,” she said.
In addition to investment capital, the fund, through its accompanying technical assistance facility, will provide direct support for women managers and business leaders, in the form of training, mentorship, the development of a supportive ecosystem and network of peers, and other resources to support successful implementation of growth and expansion strategies.
The fund targets investing up to US$ 500 million in emerging African women fund managers and women entrepreneurs over the next decade, crowding-in an additional US$ 2 billion and accelerating sustainable development and poverty alleviation over the same period.
Investments will be earmarked for each of the five regions of North, West, Central, East and Southern Africa.
“In addition to supporting women fund managers, the fund will prioritize investment funds that reach women entrepreneurs across sectors and regions,” said Ms. Ruzvidzo, adding at least 65 percent of capital will be invested in women-led companies.
The AWLN aims to advance, train and support female leaders in Africa. The network is pushing for policies that empower and enable women on the continent across the political, economic and humanitarian fields.
A collaboration between UN Women, the African Union Commission and the Permanent Mission of Germany, the AWLN was formed following a three-day high-level forum in New York last year with women leaders and youth representing African governments, international aid organizations and civil society groups.
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