The World Bank Group on Wednesday, 27 July 2022 announced the launch of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) Pipeline Development Program aimed at assisting Women Small and Medium Enterprises (WSMEs) to overcome financial constraints, stimulate growth and inspire more women to participate in the Zambian economy as entrepreneurs. The launch was officiated by the Minister of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Development, Honourable Elias Mubanga, MP at Lusaka’s Mulungushi International Conference Centre – Kenneth Kaunda wing.
The We-Fi program is a global initiative that is meant to support women entrepreneurs scale-up their access to financial products and services, build their capacity, expand their networks, offer and access mentorship, and provide linkages opportunities within the domestic and global markets. We-Fi Zambia supports formal women-led WSMEs with more than five (5) employees for support under the Zambia project. Under the We-Fi Zambia Pipeline Development Program which is Phase 2 of the country program, the objective is to reach at least 1,000 WSMEs in Lusaka and Kitwe through a combination of in-person and digital trainings while providing a virtual platform for other WSMEs around the country.
In his keynote address, Honourable Elias Mubanga said: “We are delighted by this timely gesture by the World Bank Group and we strongly believe that this program has come at the right time as it resonates with my ministry’s mandate of growing and supporting the development of SMEs in Zambia.”
The Bank of Zambia Deputy Governor – Administration, Mrs Rekha Mhango commented “We commend this timely, move to launch such a great initiative which we believe will address the many challenges being faced by our entrepreneurs across many sectors. As Central Bank, we are fully aware that this program will also further deepen the financial inclusion agenda. SMEs continue to play a major role in economic development in many countries, including Zambia.”
Speaking during the launch event, The World Bank Zambia Country Manager, Dr Sahr Kpundeh said, “SMEs are the backbone of the economy and play a vital role in employment and wealth creation. SMEs in Zambia represent 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 88 percent of employment and contribute 97 percent of all businesses in the economy.”
The We-Fi Zambia Pipeline Development Program will be implemented in collaboration with the financial institutions (commercial banks and micro finance institutions), industry-based associations, women in business associations, private sector players and other key cooperating partners to prepare viable WSMEs for growth and recovery through a combination of investments and productivity-enhancing tools. The focus on financial management serves to enhance the credit worthiness of WSMEs during a time when financial institutions are reluctant to lend to SMEs.
Speaking at the same event, International Finance Corporation Resident Representative Ms Madalo Minofu added: “We-Fi provides an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that women entrepreneurs in Zambia have a real and fair chance at success. We know that everyone benefits when women have the resources they need to fully participate in our economies and societies.”
Other key dignitaries who were present at the launch event include representatives from the World Bank Group, Senior Government Officials, the Bank of Zambia representative, Managing Directors and Chief Executive Officers of Financial Institutions, industry-based associations, women in business associations, women entrepreneurs, private sector players and other cooperating partners also took part at the launch.
Entrepreneurship continues to play a significant role in creating jobs, fueling economic growth, and enhancing societal wellbeing in many African countries. Women entrepreneurs typically use their increased power and incomes to invest in their families and give back immensely to their communities. Women entrepreneurs also employ proportionately more women than men-led firms. Furthermore, successful women entrepreneurs are a source of inspiration for other women and girls, and are key in strengthening their ambition, agency, and financial independence.
The Zambia We-Fi program will run until June 2023 and is being implemented by Kudu Consulting – a local development and management firm providing advisory, consulting and research services in food and agriculture, business, financial services, corporate advisory services, livelihoods, environment and natural resources management.