In another unexpected “first” for our nation, Donald Trump decided to have his daughter, Ivanka sit in for him at the G20 leaders’ summit in Hamburg, Germany. But another, perhaps more important first also took place at this meeting: The World Bank Group announced the creation of an innovative new facility that plans to invest more than $1 billion to advance women’s entrepreneurship. This new facility will give women in developing countries a leg up when it comes to increasing their access to capital and markets that will help them start and grow businesses.
“This incredible facility will have a significant impact on women’s economic development around the world,” United States President Donald Trump said in a recent press release from the World Bank. “It will help increase opportunities and economic growth while addressing unique barriers women entrepreneurs face. I am proud the United States is helping to lead support of this unprecedented initiative.”
Wow. I think that is the most articulate I have ever heard President Trump sound. Is there hope for a gender equality agenda growing out of the Trump White House?
As it turns out, the United States initiated the idea for this new facility, and will serve as a founding member, along with Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The genesis of this idea came from United States and Germany, who then invited the World Bank Group to create the facility.
The new initiative is called the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) and is a huge public acknowledgement of the advantages men have in the business world. We-Fi aims to remedy that inequality by providing women with access to capital, networks, and knowledge in order to grow female entrepreneurship. Trump said the U.S. would contribute $50 million to the initiative.
The problems women businesses face are staggering. The World Bank estimates that there is a $300 billion annual credit deficit to formal women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises worldwide. That means that seventy percent of these businesses in developing countries are shut out of the financing they need to grow.
Now, with this new initiative, global leaders are giving unprecedented attention to women as the key point of contact in improving and stabilizing economies. This means women are being newly recognized for the critical role they can play in creating jobs and boosting economic growth, particularly in the developing world. According to the press release, “We-Fi fills a gap where there was no significant fund or facility committed to a holistic public and private sector approach to addressing the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs.”
The strategy will unlock $1 billion in financing targeted specifically to women, with the goal of leveraging $325 million in donor grant funding along with the $1 billion in financing.
It is really interesting to see how the issues of women and financial power are coming together on the global scene, even as women and other marginalized populations face unprecedented threats to their human rights and access to health care. We will be watching the We-Fi initiative closely here at Philanthropy Women, since it so importantly ties together private and public support for women’s empowerment globally.