The World Bank has been funneling its money into women-led businesses, and a year into this investment, they are starting to see promising growth. In a recent episode of the Women Rule podcast, Priya Basu who is the head of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative praised the strength of this program. “It’s been very challenging in some ways to work with so many stakeholders,” she said of the We-Fi and World Bank “start up” that provides loans, mentorship and various other services to women-owned businesses in developing countries. She did note, “a very welcome surprise has been that there’s so much commitment around everyone to sort of make this a success.
We-Fi, according to Basu, has already overshot its lifetime goal in which the aim was to get a billion dollars into the hands of women-led businesses by 2022. She said, “for the $120 million that we allocated, we were able to mobilize an additional $1.6 billion.” those extra funds came from the private sector and other resources.
This past April, they announced their first funding allocations for projects around the world which includes initiatives to improve the business environment for women in some of the most low-income, conflict-affected regions in Sri Lanka as well as grow current successful projects that promote women-led businesses in Yemen, Mali, and Nigeria. Their hope is to one day close the gap in women’s economic participation by taking down barriers such as the $1.5 trillion financing deficit facing women entrepreneurs all over the world. According to Basu, “if women can achieve their potential fully, economies benefit.” This is from citing the recent statistic from McKinsey Global Institute which states that the world economy would grow by almost $30 trillion “if women’s potential was fully achieved.”
Now, teaming with the World Bank was not a simple endeavor and Basu explains some of the initial struggles in the podcast as well. She said, “a start-up within the World Bank is not that easy to do. As we were starting, for example, just getting a stapler, getting a binder…trying to get what’s called a ‘charge code’ within the World Bank to get a binder was very difficult.
You can learn more about Priya Basu and how she is partnering with the World Bank to break down the barriers for women entrepreneurs by listening to the full podcast here.