Jun 5, 2019

New programs are helping emerging markets businesses invest in women

Ivanka Trump and Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde. Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

Efforts to bring more women into business, especially in emerging markets, are benefiting from new development funding and private sector initiatives.

Why it matters: When companies invest in women, they can see the benefits in their profits, employee productivity and communities, according to an International Finance Corporation report. Because women have often been excluded from the formal economy in emerging markets, that's where companies stand to gain the most.

Context: Hiring more women increases efficiency and productivity, having more women on boards leads to higher returns, and helping them access the capital and professional networks to start businesses expands a company's base of suppliers and customers.

What's happening: Public institutions have offered support and incentives for companies focused on women's initiatives.

  • The White House's Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (WGDP) initiative, launched in February, helps support female entrepreneurship and eliminate political and legal barriers for women, in part through a $50 million USAID fund.
  • In 2018 the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S.’ development finance institution, launched its 2X Women’s Initiative, committing over $1 billion to women-owned businesses. The other members of the G7 have since joined on and the initiative will extend into African markets with 2X Africa.

Meanwhile, private companies are forming partnerships and developing plans of their own.

  • On a trip to Ethiopia and Ivory Coast in April, Ivanka Trump and USAID Administrator Mark Green announced a WGDP partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation to provide capital and training programs to women, in addition to other initiatives.
  • Goldman Sachs will invest $500 million in women-led companies and fund managers through its Launch with GS initiative, including women in emerging markets. The bank continues to grow its 10,000 Women program to train women entrepreneurs in developing markets and will launch a new fellowship in fall 2019.

What to watch: Women’s economic empowerment is solidly on the development agenda. As investments increase, it will be key to track how the private sector advances gender equity.

Aubrey Hruby is a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.

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