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African bank approves $12.4M for women entrepreneurs

By Xinhua | July 20th 2016

The African Development Bank (AfDB) said on Tuesday that it has approved 12.4 million U.S. dollar grant to help empower women in the continent.

A statement from AfDB said the funds will be used for a project called "50 million Women Speak" to create a networking platform dedicated to sub-Saharan women entrepreneurs.

"Platform users will learn about their rights and the way to obtain financial support," said Salieu Jack, Chief ICT Engineer & Project's Team Leader at the AfDB.

According to Jack, the rate of women entrepreneurs with access to banking loans in sub-Saharan Africa could jump from 4 percent to 10 percent by 2022.

The grant will be spread between the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The project is an innovative social media platform to enable women to start, grow and scale their business through the dynamic exchange of ideas.

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the AfDB's Special Envoy on Gender said this digital/virtual marketplace will connect business-women to encourage peer-to-peer learning, mentoring, information and knowledge sharing.

The platform which will cover 36 countries and will be accessible on mobile phones, will enable women to access business training, mentor-ship, financial services and locally-relevant business information, while building their own networks of contacts.

"The project will be implemented within a period of three years starting from 2017. The number of monthly platform user could reach 50,000 women in 2022, and by developing their businesses they expected to create 10 percent more jobs," AfDB said.

The Bank said the launch of the regional platform will be coordinated with the creation of Country Teams which will include Regional Economic Communities (RECs), specialized institutions for content gathering and dissemination, publicity, outreach, and advocacy, targeting women entrepreneurs in their respective member states.

Hosted by COMESA and co-piloted by East Africa Community and Economic Community of West Africa States, the platform will also provide an opportunity to capture important statistics on financial inclusion in Africa.

Its related statistical database should be able to provide sound and accurate data both on SMEs led by women and Financial Institutions products by country.

It should hence contribute to generating and sharing knowledge on women's access to financial and non-financial services in Regional Member Countries.

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