Webinar Report: Gender finance as an opportunity during crisis times

Mar 04, 2021 | Virtual (Online)

The EIB West and Central Africa SME Banking and Microfinance Academy 2020-2021

Webinar series

On 4 March 2021, the Making finance Work for Africa Partnership (MFW4A) in collaboration with the IPC, Horus and IECD Consortium hosted a webinar entitled “Gender finance as an opportunity during crisis times”. This session was the last of a series of four (4) webinars dedicated to banks and microfinance institutions in West and Central Africa within the context of the European Investment Bank (EIB) TA Financial sector programme for these regions.

The panel, composed entirely of women, guided 170 participants through the particularities of the financing of female entrepreneurs and the opportunities that women represent as customers of financial institutions. With an estimated funding gap of US $ 42 billion in Africa, there is significant opportunity to be tapped in. Moreover, statistics show that women who manage to actually get credit tend to be better payers than men.

Ms. Alejandra RIOS, Managing Director of ConsumerCentrix and Head of the African Women Rising Initiative (AWRI) funded by the EIB, explained the fundamentals of a value proposition for the women’s market. She offered that it all starts with a good understanding of the female client who operates mainly in the informal sector with mostly irregular cash flows. In addition, women have more difficulty providing the necessary guarantees for loan, they tend to have a less sophisticated level of digital savvy maturity, lower literacy, and financial education, compounded with more limited mobility due to the need to juggle their family life at the same time as their business.

Furthermore, similarly to other SMEs, women entrepreneurs expect a financial institution to have a decent understanding of how their business operates, to be transparent about its conditions and process for credit, as well as to provide a tailored offering and opportunities for training and networking. Financial institutions seeking to fully benefit from the potential of female customers must develop a women-focused branding strategy and their specific needs for product design, marketing and operating model, training staff and by adapting the information system to monitor performance on this customer segment.

This is precisely the path followed by Fin’ELLE, a subsidiary of the COFINA group dedicated to financing women in the Ivory Coast, as described by its Managing Director, Ms. Kady TRAORE. Fin’Elle has adopted an approach that aims 1. to design and offer financial products and services fitting the specificities and expectations of female clients and 2. the institution supports women through non-financial services to teach them the codes of the business world, so that they become aware of their potential and have easier access to business opportunities. This will help women strengthening their businesses, and ultimately increase their access to finance.

Ms. Traore stressed that this value proposition is only possible through creating first, within the institution, a mindset favorable to this offer. To do so, Fin'ELLE aligned its internal gender policies, adapted its structure, and trained all staff in the management of female customers and set up a monitoring system through collection and analysis of customer data.

Last but not least, Ms. Tania COLANTONE presented how the European Investment Bank (EIB), seeks to promote the economic empowerment of women through various initiatives. These initiatives could be: investments favorable to an increased numbers of employment opportunities for women, loans granted to financial intermediaries in order to promote the access to banking services to women entrepreneurs, and also technical assistance to EIB’s partners to help them develop new products and services targeting women.

The EIB is also participating in the 2X Challenge (www.2xchallenge.org), a multilateral initiative aiming to mobilize funds for the financing of projects for improving the role of women in the economy. The panelist presented the eligibility criteria for funding under this initiative, either directly as a company or as a financial intermediary.

The webinar ended with a  dynamic discussion with the participants and the following closing remarks: “Women entrepreneurs represent a real opportunity for financial institutions provided they develop products and services as well as a suitable environment to meet their specific needs”.

Click here to access the recording (FR)