The EIB West and Central Africa SME Banking and Microfinance Academy 2020-2021
Webinar series Topic 4: Gender finance as an opportunity during crisis times
4th March 2021, 01 pm (Abidjan) / 02 pm (Cotonou, Paris, Frankfurt, Douala, Kinshasa)
To conclude the series of four webinars organized by the EIB Academy dedicated to banks specialized in SME financing and microfinance institutions in West and Central Africa, in partnership with Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A), a webinar on the theme “Women in Finance as an Opportunity in Times of Crisis” was held on March 4, 2021. A timely topic in the run-up to the March 8 International Women’s Rights Day.
The panel, entirely composed of women, guided the 170 participants through the discovery of the specificities of financing women entrepreneurs and the opportunity that this clientele represents for financial institutions. Indeed, with a $42 billion financing gap in Africa, the potential is enormous. Moreover, when they manage to benefit from credit, women repay statistically better than men.
Ms. Alejandra RIOS, Managing Director of ConsumerCentrix and Project Manager of the EIB-funded African Women Rising Initiative (AWRI), explained how to design a value proposition for the women’s market. It all starts with understanding the female client. Like their male counterparts, they operate primarily in the informal sector, but their cash flow is often irregular, they have more difficulty providing the necessary collateral, they have lower levels of digital maturity, literacy, and financial literacy, and they are less mobile due to the need to manage family life. Thus, more than any other SME, women entrepreneurs need a financial institution that understands how their business works, is transparent about its credit terms and processes, and provides a tailored offering and training and networking opportunities. Financial institutions that want to fully tap into the potential of women clients need to develop a women-focused brand strategy and take into account their specific needs in product design, marketing, and operating model, training staff and adapting the information system to track performance in this client segment.
This is exactly the path followed by Fin’ELLE, the COFINA Group’s subsidiary dedicated to women’s financing in Côte d’Ivoire, as described by its General Manager, Mrs. Kady TRAORE.
The institution has adopted an approach that aims, on the one hand, to design and offer financial products and services adapted to the specific characteristics and expectations of women clients, and on the other hand, to accompany women, through non-financial services, so that they appropriate the codes of the business world, become aware of their potential and have easier access to business opportunities. Women will thus be able to strengthen their businesses, which will give them greater access to financing.
The panelist emphasized that this value proposition is only meaningful if a mindset is created within the institution to support it. To this end, Fin’ELLE has aligned its internal gender policies, adapted its organization and trained all staff in the specific management of a female clientele, and set up a monitoring system through the collection and analysis of client data.
Finally, Ms. Tania COLANTONE, presented the way in which the European Investment Bank (EIB), through various initiatives seeks to promote the economic empowerment of women. These actions take several forms: investments to increase women’s employment opportunities, loans granted to financial intermediaries in order to promote the provision of banking services to women entrepreneurs and technical assistance to these different partners to enable them to develop new products and services targeting women.
The EIB also participates in the 2X Challenge, a multilateral initiative to mobilize funds for projects that improve women’s participation in the economy. The panelist presented the eligibility criteria for funding under this framework, either directly as a company or as a financial intermediary.
The webinar concluded with a discussion session with the participants.
The final word: Women entrepreneurs represent a real opportunity for financial institutions provided they develop products and services as well as an environment adapted to meet their specific needs.