ADB project to foster conducive environment for women entrepreneurs | Sunday Observer

ADB project to foster conducive environment for women entrepreneurs

15 September, 2019

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been supporting the government in promoting women’s entrepreneurship through small and medium sized enterprises line of credit project, supported by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), Project Officer, Public Management, Financial Sector and Trade Division, South Asia Development, ADB, Takuya Hoshino said.

This reflects a central pillar of ADB’s new strategy 2030 in promoting gender equality, he said.

ADB’s project in Sri Lanka targets interconnected challenges and bottlenecks to bring about institutional changes that will foster an environment conducive to women’s entrepreneurship in the country, he said at a forum to promote women’s entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka by the Asian Development Bank and Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce held last week in Colombo.

“As Sri Lanka undergoes its transition to upper middle income status, the country has achieve gender parity in access to education, but women’s economic participation is well below potential. Female participation in the labour force was at 33.6 percent in 2018, significantly lower than that for men which was 73 percent.

“Women’s ownership of formal small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) is low in Sri Lanka and most women struggle to transition away from informal micro scale businesses. These gender inequalities represent a missed opportunity to boost growth in the context of a steadily aging population and expected future labour shortage,” he said.

The ADB’s project will address women entrepreneurs’ limited access to finance, low business capacity of women entrepreneurs, inadequate policy and regulatory framework for women entrepreneurship and poor date and evidence on women entrepreneurs on which to base policies and practices.

A US $ 12.6 million grant from We-Fi was introduced last year to further enhance the gender-related impact on the project. This initiative will help ADB to ensure that more women-owned or led SMEs have access to finance, training and mentorship opportunities.

The ADB will also strengthen the technical capacity of a wide range of stakeholders, including government, banks and chamber of commerce and SMEs. All these efforts will contribute to more effectively address the bottlenecks while fostering a women entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Among the targets We-Fi plas to achieve are more than 600 women-owned or led SMEs accessing finance, 700 women accessing the online networking platform and personalized business development training, government agencies and chambers of commerce introducing gender action plans while partnering banks introduce new policies and banking practices to reach out to women SMEs and rigorous impact evaluation to be carried out and result disseminated.

When reviewing the progress made by the We-Fi grant, 323 women-owned or led SMEs employing 3,934 people have finacillay benefitted, US $ 2.9 million of the We-Fi grant has mobilised a$ 11.5 million ADB credit line for debt and $ 6.7 million in commercial financing equity. More than 90 percent of We-Fi grants were made for economic activities outside Colombo district including 22 percent in lagging regions and across various industries.

The International Finance Corporation estimated that the proportion of formal women-owned micro and SMEs was 38-47 percent in East and Southeast Asia but only 8 -9 percent in South Asia in 2011.