African Women Rising Initiative

African Women Rising Initiative

Women entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa face a myriad of challenges in operating and growing their businesses. The challenges begin early, as women in the region often have lower secondary education levels and less professional experience in the formal sector. When starting a business, women are less likely to have a mentor or role model and often have a greater need to access a capacity building, supportive networks, and market information than their male counterparts.

As it stands today, financial services in the region are generally not designed to be gender inclusive. Most financial intermediaries (FIs) require fixed collateral to secure a business loan. This requirement presents an immediate barrier to women entrepreneurs as laws and social norms in many Sub-Saharan markets restrict women’s rights to own property. As a result, many women struggle to grow their businesses because they cannot meet the collateral requirements.

In cooperation with the International Project Consult (IPC) and the African Management Institute (AMI), ConsumerCentriX was selected by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support the African Women Rising Initiative (AWRI)*. This will be achieved by focusing on the demand side by empowering women entrepreneurs through capacity building, mentoring, and networking activities and on the supply side by supporting the FIs in designing, establishing, and actively promoting financial services better tailored to women entrepreneurs’ needs.

As part of the technical advisory work, the Consortium will ensure that partner FIs build their capacity to conduct market research and develop business cases to design, market, and evaluate gender-inclusive solutions. Simultaneously, the Consortium will increase FIs’ ability to provide meaningful training and mentoring opportunities to women entrepreneurs.

Phase 1 June 2020-February 2021:

The Consortium conducted a mapping exercise of all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to understand the baseline of women’s financial and economic inclusion, opportunities, and entrepreneurial activities in the region.  Based on an overall conducive environment and gaps in women’s financial inclusion and entrepreneurship, the Consortium recommended countries for project implementation. These countries have varying percentages of formal small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) that are women-led or -owned and a strong potential for more with existing conducive regulatory and social environments and/or the opportunity to leverage digital channels to deepen financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment.  To identify potential partner  in these countries, the Consortium reached out to EIB partner institutions aiming to gather insights into each FI’s existing focus on women as a target segment, desire to serve women entrepreneurs, and capacity to absorb the technical assistance.


Phase 2 March 2021-April 2023

For the project’s implementation phase, EIB will select four countries and a combination of commercial banks and microfinance institutions, to be part of the program.

AWRI will focus on both the market maker and banking on change perspectives – the market maker perspective ensures women have the capacity to access financing, and the banking on change perspective ensures FIs have the capacity to serve them well in a way that meets their unique needs and preferences.

The three-year technical advisory program will start with a need assessment of the FIs, which will be followed by market research in each country, resulting in the design and launch of a value proposition for women entrepreneurs addressing both their financial and non-financial needs. FIs will be close collaborators throughout the project, culminating in a handover phase, contributing to the program’s sustainability and long-term impact.

* The technical assistance operation is financed under the Cotonou Investment Facility. ConcumerCentriX takes full responsibility for the contents of this Publication. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the European Union or of the European Investment Bank.