By Alfred Nyakinda

African women will benefit from greater funding for entrepreneurship after G7 leaders approved a US$ 251 million package in support of the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative on Sunday.

This announcement was made at the annual G7 summit in line with the summit’s emphasis on reducing inequality, which involves a renewed partnership with Africa seeking to create sustainable employment and support entrepreneurship, particularly among women.

“I am particularly proud, as the current G7 president, that the programme we are supporting today, the AFAWA initiative, comes from an African organisation, the African Development Bank, which works with African guarantee funds and a network of African banks,” French President Emmanuel Macron stated at a press conference at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France.

The AFAWA initiative is the result of a demand by women for easier access to financing and the development of financing mechanisms for their economic empowerment, adopted at a summit of African heads of state in 2015 and assigned to the African Development Bank for implementation.

“African women are the backbone of the continent. I’m thrilled to bring their voice to the G7. AFAWA is essential for our continent,” said Beninese artist and UNICEF ambassador Angelique Kidjo, a guest at the press conference.

The initiative seeks to raise up to US$5 billion for African women entrepreneurs and the African Development Bank will provide US$1 billion financing.

The Bank’s president Akiwumi Adesina commended the action by the G7 heads of state and government, saying their support would provide incredible momentum to the initiative.

“This is a great day for African women,” Adesina said. “Investing in women entrepreneurs in Africa is important, because women are not only Africa’s future, they are Africa’s present”.

“Currently, women operate over 40% of SMEs in Africa, but there is a financing gap of $42 billion between male and female entrepreneurs. This gap must be closed, and quickly,” he added.

The AFAWA initiative is based on three fundamental principles, the first being improving women’s access to financing through innovative and adapted financial instruments, including guarantee mechanisms to support women entrepreneurs.

The second is providing capacity-building services to women entrepreneurs, including access to mentoring and training courses in entrepreneurship, and assisting financial institutions in responding to specific needs of women-led businesses through specially adapted financial and non-financial products.

The improvement of the legal and regulatory environment is the third principle and involves eliminating obstacles that specifically affect women by engaging in policy dialogue with governments, central banks, and other institutions.

France holds the presidency of the G7 in 2019, and the French president is championing gender equality as a major theme of his five-year term.

This year’s G7 summit differed from previous meetings as eight non-G7 countries were invited at the initiative of President Macron, five of which were African, with the invited countries being Australia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Egypt, India, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa.

Formerly known as the G8, until Russia’s suspension after its 2014 annexation of Crimea, the summit brings together the heads of state and government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus the presidents of the European Commission and European Council.

Contact : Solange Kamuanga-Tossou, Communication and External Relations Department, African Development Bank.