Up to 10,000 women entrepreneurs in Africa are to benefit from £30 million UK aid, to help break down barriers, holding them back from starting and growing businesses.
“Unleashing the economic potential of women will boost African economies, trade and investment opportunities and increase global prosperity, which is in the interests of the UK and African countries,” the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) said in a statement.
He added that giving women an equal role in the economy was “essential to sustained growth and will help lift millions out of poverty”.
Experts estimate that increasing economic equality globally could add US$12 trillion (or 11 per cent) to the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“Despite having the highest concentration of female entrepreneurs in the world, women in a number of African countries face greater barriers to starting their own businesses than their male peers,” DfID said.
“This is because women often find it harder to access further education, get business loans, sign contracts and own property based on their gender.”
DfID said that the £30 million would “incentivise African banks across the continent to lend to women by reducing the costs, while providing expert training to female entrepreneurs in essential skills to make their businesses a success”.
According to research, women reinvest up to 90 per cent of their income in the education, health and nutrition of their family and community, compared to 40 per cent for men.
“This means that investing in female-led businesses can transform societies as well as women’s lives,” DfID said.
The £30 million will go to the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) programme run by the African Development Bank.
The programme will provide up to 10,000 budding female entrepreneurs with essential training and mentoring to help them better manage their businesses, including marketing, financial and business planning.
It will enter partnerships with up to 30 banks across Africa, helping to bring down the cost of lending to thousands of women.
International Development Secretary, Alok Sharma, said: “Every woman deserves the same opportunities as her male peers to start and build a business.
“But this is not just about equal opportunities. By breaking down barriers and unleashing the potential of women across Africa, UK aid is supporting the private sector to thrive, helping
nations across the continent to increase economic growth and shape their own future beyond aid.
“By investing in the economic empowerment of African women, we are investing in ending poverty, and in developing Britain’s trading partners of the future,” Mr Sharma added.
As the UK negotiates its way out of the European Union, the government is looking to extending trade and investment links with other parts of the world.
For instance, the UK government said it aimed to be the biggest G7 investor in Africa by 2022.
The planned UK-Africa Investment Summit in London next year hopes to build on the UK’s existing partnerships with African nations to “create mutual trade and investment opportunities”.
The Summit will bring together businesses, governments and international organisations “to strengthen the partnership between the UK and Africa and help generate billions of pounds of opportunities for both British and African businesses”.