The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank Group, has presented ‘Banking on Women’ – an initiative that seeks to encourage banks to explore targetted investment and advisory services to promote access to finance for women entrepreneurs.
The product is expected to also explore untapped opportunities within female customer segments in the Ghanaian market.
According to statistics, nearly four out of every 10 business leaders in Ghana are women. Ghana is leading its peers with the highest percentage of women as business owners, though the majority of women’s economic potential remains untapped – particularly in the financial sector.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra, the Global Product Head for the programme, Jessica Schnabel, noted that women’s contribution to businesses has a greater impact on the economy; especially considering the fact that 51% of the Ghanaian populace are women.
She said: “We at IFC believe that products which support women should be commercial; and that is how this product will be, so many can come on board. We also acknowledge the fact that this shouldn’t be limited to just women in the urban areas but also focus on rural producers – the reason we plan to partner with banks and micro-finance institutions that have women at heart.
“Women are the next emerging market, and forward-looking banks are targetting women customers as a core growth strategy.”
In an IFC study, the estimated credit demand of women entrepreneurs in Ghana is US$643million. According to the study, most female entrepreneurs outperform their male counterparts when they have access to finance information and networks, and are operating in an enabling environment.
Yet, due to structural deficiencies caused by high poverty and inequalities, women entrepreneurs face more challenges in accessing financing and associated benefits than men.
The study further revealed that numerous non-financial barriers including the social and cultural norms underlying gender biases present an immediate obstacle for women in Ghana, and similarly in other developing markets.
Women owners of small and medium-sized enterprises often cite an absence of information as well as their lack of familiarity with financial language as significant obstacles to growing their businesses.
On her part, the IFC Country Manager for Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo and Niger – Ronke-Amoni Ogunsulire – is optimistic that the ‘Banking on Women’ initiative will generate opportunities to empower women in entrepreneurship, who also represent a greater segment of the market.
She said the initiative will also help the banks reach clients previously underserved, enabling the financial sector to tap into more opportunities.
“We have a lot of products to offer, they include debt financing, equity financing, balance sheet risk management, mobilisation and syndication among others. All these are to help women reach the stage where they will be driving the economy.
“Research has also shown that women own over 30% of registered SMEs globally; they are also ‘less risky clients’ and more loyal to a bank – enough reason to guarantee the success of this product on the market once it is made available,” she said.