Italy, WBG to co-finance women entrepreneurs
Supporting a project that helps women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia, the government of Italy has become the latest benefactor providing 15 million Euros in a co-financing scheme with the World Bank Group (WBG) targeting some 20,000 women engaged in small, medium and micro enterprises (SMEs).
Ginevra Letizia, head of the Addis Ababa office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, said Italy is willing to provide training and technical capacity-building programs not only for women but also to other sectors in need. She mentioned Italy's ongoing support to the leather sector. There is a cluster-based financial and technical support channeled to SMEs in the leather and leather-goods manufacturing businesses. The 15 million Euros Italy provided is a soft loan payable in 40 years’ time.
According to Carolyn Turk, country director for Ethiopia and South Sudan with WBG, the program, dubbed "Women Entrepreneurs Development Project-WEDP," has been operational since 2012, enabling businesswomen have access to finance. So far, some 12,000 women have been able to receive loans. On average, 240,000 birr per borrower has been disbursed, Turk said.
Speaking of project outcomes, a WBG survey highlighted a 79 percent increase in beneficiaries’ income and 68 percent increase in their capacity to hire people, Turk noted. Of the 12,000 women who have accessed loans, 52 percent have been first-time borrowers.
Prior to Italy, Canada, the UK and Japan have provided funds to the project, which will now include 20,000 borrowers operating in Addis Ababa, Adama, Bahir Dar, Dire Dawa, Mekelle and Hawassa. In the past, USD 58 million has been secured for the project, which currently has created a huge appetite for small-scale loans.
Japan alone has provided USD 50 million for the project, a financing scheme approved for Ethiopia for the first time in 40 years.