The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) finance for women has reached one billion dollars in approved funding for lending to African women entrepreneurs.

In a statement issued by the Communication and External Relations Department of AfDB on Tuesday, it said this was another milestone for the bank following the Dakar 2 Africa Food Summit. The Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) was inaugurated in 2015 in Dakar during the first Feed Africa conference (Dakar 1 Africa Food Summit).

Dr Beth Dunford, the Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, AfDB, said she was proud of AFAWA’s financing achievement. “AFAWA’s benchmark reminds us that when we invest to grow Africa’s food systems, we must also invest in Africa’s women agripreneurs.”

According to the statement, women run the majority of Africa’s agricultural sector small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), yet they face significant barriers to accessing finance.

Across the continent, African women entrepreneurs face an estimated 42-billion-dollar gender financing gap compared to men. Also, Ms Malado Kaba, Director of Gender, Women and Civil Society Department, AfDB, said by the end of Dec. 2022, AFAWA-approved lending to women-led Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) reached 1.051 billion dollars.

“Of that, 135 million dollars targets women in the agriculture sector. “AFAWA’s approved lending reaches across 27 countries, and through 56 financial institutions. Already, 4,115 women business owners have benefited from AFAWA financing instruments. This is just the beginning,” Kaba said.

She said the bank would continue to work closely with its partners to accelerate their ability to lend to women-led micro and small enterprises.

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“Ensuring that the enabling environment is inclusive to enhance women’s ability to access financing will be critical.

“Thus, we will work closely with policymakers to ensure that the right reforms are in place to accelerate women-led small and medium enterprises’ financial access.”

According to the statement, the AFAWA project aims to provide financing and technical support to 400 women-led farmer-based associations and women-owned SMEs, to foster their agriculture productivity and strengthen their climate resilience practices.

Furthermore, AFAWA has established a Guarantee Mechanism to accelerate progress toward unlocking five billion dollars in lending for women by 2026.

The mechanism de-risks the women’s market and increases the ability of financial institutions to lend to women business owners.

AFAWA also inaugurated the Women Entrepreneurship Enablers programme, which provides up to 250,000 dollars for women’s business associations, incubators, accelerators, women-led cooperatives, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

The programme increases women SMEs’ readiness to access credit and scale their businesses.