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PRESS RELEASE April 17, 2019

Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative West Africa Regional Summit Call to Action

1. Public and private sector leaders from 12 countries gathered today in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to discuss and agree on ways to boost opportunities for women entrepreneurs in West Africa. The Summit was organized by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) in collaboration with the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, and the Islamic Development Bank, and was hosted by the Presidency of Côte d'Ivoire, and attended by Heads of State, representatives from private as well as public sector and civil society from the member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

2. We-Fi is a partnership among 14 donor governments, eight multilateral development banks, and other public and private sector stakeholders, established in October 2017 and hosted by the World Bank Group.  We-Fi is the first significant fund that brings together policy, legal and regulatory reforms with public and private investments, catalyzing billions of dollars to address the systemic barriers facing women entrepreneurs in developing countries.

3. Leaders at the Summit noted that women constitute the majority of Africa’s self-employed population and play a key economic role, with significant benefits for their families, communities and countries. Yet, women face many barriers to full economic participation, including, regulations, and social norms that reduce their access to assets, including capital, collateral, equipment, land, and personal property; limit where and when they can work; and restrict their freedom of movement. Women entrepreneurs also face other barriers that prevent them from accessing finance, markets, technology, mentoring and capacity building support. This limits the potential of women entrepreneurs and impedes economic growth and poverty reduction across Africa.

4. The We-Fi Summit called for intensifying efforts to provide women with better access to capital, markets, technology, and financial products and services.

5. Heads of State, representatives of the public and private sector as well as other attendees of the  Summit called for strong collaboration across the public and private sectors, civil society, and the international community to address the gaps in investment, sourcing, and technology that hold women back.

6. More specifically, leaders at the Summit urged governments to undertake legal and regulatory reforms to:

  • Prohibit discrimination in access to financial services based on gender and marital status
  • Remove labor restrictions for women, particularly in agriculture
  • Equalize property rights between men and women
  • Eliminate mobility constraints for women and improve transport safety
  • Track and increase sourcing from women entrepreneurs for government contracts
  • Increase women’s access to the basic infrastructure of the digital economy

7. Leaders at the Summit urged the private sector and civil society organizations to:

  • Expand women’s access to financial products, notably by accepting different types of collateral
  • Ensure that financial services are provided in tandem with non-financial support, such as training and capacity-building
  • Include more women entrepreneurs in sales and distribution channels and work to increase procurement from women-owned businesses
  • Expand women’s linkages to business networks
  • Help women entrepreneurs improve access to digital skills, platforms and technology
  • Prevent and mitigate against sexual harassment in accessing markets and finance
  • Increase women’s representation at decision-making levels in the financial services industry and in business organizations

8. Leaders at the Summit urged Multilateral Development Banks to:

  • Reinforce financial capacity building and technical support to women entrepreneurs in all sectors
  • Ensure that developments programs and projects to countries include components geared toward support of women entrepreneurs
  • Design specific financial and guarantee products to facilitate women’s access to finance
  • Work to increase procurement from women-owned businesses

9. In addition, leaders called for better collection and reporting of sex disaggregated data by both the public and private sectors, especially financial institutions.  This will help determine how policies and reforms affect women entrepreneurs as well as track progress in narrowing the gaps between women and men in commercial activity, employment, business leadership, procurement, and supply chains.

10. For its part, ECOWAS will work with member countries to implement, whenever necessary, reforms and measures to reinforce its support to women entrepreneurs in all sectors within the region.

11. Finally, the Summit warmly thanks His Excellency Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire, his Government and the People of Côte d’Ivoire for having hosted this historical Summit.