AFAWA Finance Series Togo: African Development Bank and African Guarantee Fund unite to strengthen female entrepreneurs’ access to finance

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(left to right): Bendjin Kpeglo, Managing Director of AGF West Africa; Wilfried Abiola, the African Development Bank’s Country Manager for Togo; Akuwa Dogbé Azoma, National Director for Togo at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO); Koffi Gani, Principal Private Secretary for the Togolese Minister for Social Action, the Advancement of Women and Literacy; Melissa Basque-Roux, Acting Coordinator of the AFAWA initiative; Jules Ngakam, CEO of the AGF Group.
(left to right): Bendjin Kpeglo, Managing Director of AGF West Africa; Wilfried Abiola, the African Development Bank’s Country Manager for Togo; Akuwa Dogbé Azoma, National Director for Togo at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO); Koffi Gani, Principal Private Secretary for the Togolese Minister for Social Action, the Advancement of Women and Literacy; Melissa Basque-Roux, Acting Coordinator of the AFAWA initiative; Jules Ngakam, CEO of the AGF Group.

The African Development Bank and the African Guarantee Fund (AGF) have brought the curtain down on the AFAWA Finance Series Togo conference, a key note event aimed at  promoting a better understanding of the financing needs of Togolese women entrepreneurs and debunking the myth that women-run companies are risky ventures.

The three-day event, which ended on Thursday 28 March 2024, brought together some 180 leading figures responsible for policy and regulation in favour of women’s financial inclusion, and representatives of financial institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises and business incubators run or owned by women.

Specific training was provided to about 30 Togolese financial institutions. The courses helped to enhance understanding of the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative and its ‘guarantee’ mechanism, and demonstrated the commercial benefits of doing a better job of targeting women entrepreneurs by developing gender-sensitive ranges of products and services.

The objective was to better understand the needs of women entrepreneurs and collectively address the challenges they face in terms of access to funding, while exploring the opportunities offered by the Guarantee for Growth programme, designed by the African Development Bank Group through the AFAWA, and implemented by the AGF. This innovative programme aims to make up to $3 billion available for women-led small and medium-sized enterprises, via guarantees to financial institutions to mitigate lending risks.

Wilfried Abiola, the Bank’s Country Manager for Togo, explained the initiative challenged economic and social stereotypes.

“The AFAWA initiative is not just a financial instrument; it aims to change the narrative and general perceptions, to transform the notion that small and medium-sized enterprises run by women are risky businesses. AFAWA is working to turn these businesses into substantial investment opportunities for institutions, in particular through the Guarantee for Growth programme, which was designed by the Bank,” he declared.

According to Jules Ngankam, CEO of the AGF, “AFAWA also aims to bring together financial and public sector actors to boost human and financial capital so that women can attain their full potential and participate completely in the growth of our continent. We are extremely optimistic that the impact will be significant in the long term and will stimulate economic growth in Togo.”

The financing gap for women-led small and medium-sized enterprises in Togo is close to $45 million. Closing this gap represents a priority for the Togolese authorities, who intend to strengthen women’s economic empowerment, boost the private sector and thereby support inclusive economic growth.

“Through the government’s action, 25 percent of public contracts are now awarded to women and young people, and on the economic front, the government aims to resolve the problem of access to credit for women and girls with the establishment of the National Fund for Inclusive Finance, which has helped more than 1.2 million women,” said Koffi Gani, Principal Private Secretary for the Togolese Minister for Social Action, the Advancement of Women and Literacy.

The AFAWA Finance Series Togo conference is part of a series of events organised right across Africa to promote access to finance for businesses run or owned by women. It represents a considerable step towards accomplishing the ambitious goal of funding women-led businesses to the tune of $5 billion by 2026.

The African Development Bank, through the AFAWA initiative, has approved approximately $1.7 billion in cumulative investments and $54.5 million in technical assistance, and has partnered with 96 financial institutions in 32 regional member countries. Over 7,000 women-led small and medium-sized enterprises have now reaped the benefits of its support in Africa.

AFAWA is supported by the Women Enterpreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the G7 countries of France, Italy, Canada and Germany, as well as the Netherlands and Sweden.

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