Women Empowerment: Access Bank, FMO agree $30m Facility for SMEs

Ventures Africa, November 20, 2014 (by Emmanuel Iruobe)

VENTURES AFRICA – Access Bank Plc and Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) have signed a $30 million deal to provide capacity building and debt capital support for local female entrepreneurs while promoting the bank’s key goal of reaching more unbanked citizens via cheap funding.

A key segment this fund is seeking to capture is the Small and Medium scale businesses operated by women.

Speaking at the signing ceremony of the deal, which is structured to accommodate a fifty-fifty participation from Access Bank and the FMO, Mr Herbert Wigwe, Access Bank’s Group Managing Director, highlighted the aim of the new initiative. “This for us is a milestone achievement and a step further in our relationship with FMO. Our aim is to inspire women through various strategic mentoring programs, a very interactive website which connects them, giving them better financial support and financial advisory services to enable them succeed as entrepreneurs,” he said.

He said that the bank’s relationship with the FMO was a long standing one spanning over eight years.

Attesting to a mutual desire to support women-driven SME participation, Frederik Kummersteiner, FMO’s Manager for Infrastructure, Manufacturing & Services, said; “This is another important partnership for us at the FMO as the women-driven SME sector represents a strategic pillar of Nigeria’s quest for modernised and improved economy whilst encouraging inclusive banking in the economy.”

Women empowerment is an emerging global theme, more so in Africa where experts believe a good part of achieving inclusive and sustainable growth will be hinged on how well Africa is able to unleash the hitherto suppressed energy, resourcefulness and power of its women and girls.

From the beginning of multiple value chains, women are able to add significant value and boost overall output. Studies across many countries suggest that, if women’s access to productive resources were to equal that of men, farm yields would grow by 20 percent – 30 percent, a development that is definitely necessary given the looming effects of global warming and climate change. Beyond agriculture though; with education, capital, and access to markets and technologies, women can readily transform commodity surpluses into profits by processing, packaging and marketing products, and a ready consumer would be Africa’s growing middle class.

Similar to trends noticed in India, Liberia, Malawi and Rwanda, greater participation by women in politics can spur improved governance. Does this therefore make a case for further women empowerment?