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Supporting Women Entrepreneurs: The Way Forward
May 29, 2014Washington, D.C.

The Financial and Private Sector Development Group's Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Global Practice, the Gender & Development Group, and the Africa Region (West and Central) invite you to the third and final session in the series: "Women Entrepreneurs -- A New Approach to Growth and Shared Prosperity."

Female entrepreneurs in developing countries are concentrated in low productivity and informal sectors, characterized by limited growth, according to the recent World Bank report, Gender at Work. As a result they are unable to grow from micro and small enterprises into medium/large productive enterprises and contribute to national economies in a significant way.  According to the ILO, 865 million women in the world have the potential to contribute more fully to their national economies and 94% (812 million) of them live in emerging and developing economies. Unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs would lift millions out of poverty, create jobs, increase incomes, and have important spillover effects that lead to greater economic, social, and household-level outcomes. 

This BBL focuses on the operational aspect of supporting women entrepreneurs. It will focus on two related questions: 

Sector sorting: Women entrepreneurs are concentrated in low productivity, low growth sectors. But current WBG programs do not include a focus on supporting switching to higher productivity sectors. Going forward, should we design programs that include influencing sector choice or crossing over?

Business education: With sector sorting playing an integral role in successful business performance and generally preceding the support program, how should business education be structured to deliver maximum impact?

Gaiv Tata, Director, Financial Inclusion & Financial Infrastructure Global Practice, FPD

Mehnaz Safavian, Senior Economist, AFTFW
Sara Al Rowais, Private Sector Development Specialist, MNSF1
Francisco Moraes Leitao Campos, Economist, AFTFW
Xavier Cirera, Private Sector Development Specialist, FIEEI
Marième Esther Dassanou, Sector Lead, Gender Secretariat, IFC     

  • Gaiv Tata

    Since July 2011, Gaiv Tata has been the Director for the Global Practice on Financial Inclusion and Infrastructure at the World Bank as well as the Director for Financial and Private Sector Development in the Sub-Saharan Africa Region. Gaiv’s practice team provides global technical leadership for the Bank’s work on: financial inclusion for households and micro, small and medium enterprises; consumer protection and financial literacy; payment systems; financial market infrastructure; and remittances. His regional team is responsible for supporting client countries in private sector development programs (including business environment improvement, sectoral/cluster initiatives particularly in agribusiness, public/private partnerships particularly for infrastructure development and firm capacity building/entrepreneurship) and financial sector development programs (strengthening financial systems, capital markets development and financial inclusion for households and micro, small and medium enterprises). Over a career spanning twenty five years with the World Bank, he has undertaken operational, analytical and fund raising activities. Specifically, he led finance and private sector development policy dialogue as well as country strategy formulation and multi-sectoral activities; provided implementation support for the Bank’s activities in Uganda through a field-based assignment; was part of the team that prepared the 2005 World Development Report on improving the investment climate; and managed two of the most successful rounds of fund raising for the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest.
  • Mehnaz Safavian

    Mehnaz Safavian is a Senior Economist in the Finance and Private Sector Department in the Africa Region (West and Central). Mehnaz has worked extensively on financial inclusion issues, including micro and SME finance, gender, creditors' rights, informality, and responsible finance. Mehnaz holds a PhD in economics from The Ohio State University and has published extensively in World Bank and scholarly journals. Before joining the World Bank, Mehnaz held positions in the U.S. government, Development NGOs, and academia.
  • Sara Al Rowais

    Sara Al Rowais is a Private Sector Development Specialist in the Middle East & North Africa Region’s Finance & Private Sector Development (FPD) Unit. Her primary area of expertise is financial inclusion, particularly SME access to finance (early stage equity, lending, etc.). Sara also works on entrepreneurship development, with a gender inclusion dimension, and is currently developing a women’s entrepreneurship program in MENA. She has also worked on sectoral development (ICT, tourism, etc.) as well as economic zone development. Prior to joining the MENA region, Sara worked in the FPD unit of the South Asia region focusing on competitiveness and financial inclusion. She holds degrees in Finance, Business Administration, and Computer Science.
  • Francisco Campos

    Francisco Campos is an Economist at the World Bank's Africa Financial and Private Sector Development program. He is also the thematic leader on gender and entrepreneurship for the Africa Gender Innovation Lab. Francisco's research interests include entrepreneurship, skills development, financial inclusion, and gender. Francisco has worked extensively on impact evaluations in Africa and has significant experience in lending operations. He has also worked with both the private and public sectors on debt and equity capital markets, finance, and investment promotion. He holds a Master of Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID) from Harvard Kennedy School.
  • Xavi Cirera

    Xavi Cirera is an Economist in the Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Global Practice (ITE). He has more than 10 years’ experience working in the areas of trade policy, trade competitiveness and firm level export diversification and innovation; mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil. Prior to joining the World Bank he was a Research Fellow at the institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. He holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Sussex. His work at ITE will span over the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation, including women entrepreneurship in Pakistan or innovation in Kenya.
  • Marième Esther Dassanou

    Marième Esther Dassanou is the Sector Lead in IFC’s Gender secretariat where she is tasked with developing the value proposition for the profitable and sustainable inclusion of women in the Agribusiness, ICT and the Extractives sectors. She has led the mainstreaming of women access to finance in the organization’s SME Banking program which has now grown to an $800 million investment portfolio. Esther has also managed the Global Banking Alliance for Women Secretariat, a consortium of financial institutions dedicated to the growth of women enterprises. She joined IFC in 2007 from the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA). Esther holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and African and Latin American Studies and an MBA.