Women entrepreneurs to benefit from AfDB funding


  • In Lesotho, women still have little or no say over resources and norms, choice of jobs, and crops
  • Women run majority of Africa’s agricultural sector SMEs


MASERU – Local women entrepreneurs, particularly those in agriculture, will benefit from the African Development Bank (ADB)’s women fund that is designated for lending to African women entrepreneurs. The Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) initiative has reached a landmark US$1 billion (about M17 billion) in approved funding designated for lending to African women entrepreneurs. This is yet another milestone for the bank following a recent historic summit to tackle the escalating challenges of food security in Africa. The Dakar 2 Africa Food Summit, co-hosted by the Bank and the government of Senegal was attended by 34 heads of state and government, more than 70 ministers, farmers’ representatives from the private sector, and development partners.

AFAWA was launched in 2015 in Dakar during the first Feed Africa conference. “I am incredibly proud of AFAWA’s financing achievement. AFAWA’s benchmark reminds us that when we invest to grow Africa’s food systems, we must also invest in Africa’s women agripreneurs,” the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human, and Social Development, Dr Beth Dunford said. Women run the majority of Africa’s agricultural sector’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), yet they face significant barriers to accessing finance.

Across the continent, African women entrepreneurs face an estimated $42 billion gender financing gap compared to their male counterparts. In Lesotho, women still have little to no influence over resources and norms, choice of jobs, and crops. This limits their earning potential in agriculture and hence, the feminisation of agriculture.  In recent years, frequent droughts and floods, poor farming methods, high food prices, and global financial crises worsened food insecurity. Lesotho’s agricultural system is patriarchal, and subsistence farming is the dominant farming practice that depends solely on rainfall. This has resulted in poor harvests exacerbated by archaic farming methods, tools, and infertile soil.

However, assistance from the African Development Bank is likely to greatly impact women’s participation in agriculture in the country. In the last two years, the Bank through AFAWA, has multiplied the volume of investments towards women-owned small and medium enterprises sevenfold. “By the end of December 2022, AFAWA-approved lending to women-led small and medium-sized enterprises reached $1.051 billion. Of that, $135 million targets women in the agriculture sector,” said Malado Kaba, Director of the Bank’s Gender, Women, and Civil Society Department.

“AFAWA’s approved lending reaches across 27 countries and through 56 financial institutions. Already 4 115 women business owners have benefited from AFAWA financing instruments. This is just the beginning,” she added. Already, financial barriers to African women agripreneurs growing their businesses, are being addressed through AFAWA investment. “In 2023, we will continue to work closely with our partners to accelerate their ability to lend to women-led micro and small enterprises. Ensuring that the enabling environment is inclusive to enhance women’s ability to access financing will be critical. “Thus, we will work closely with policymakers to ensure that the right reforms are in place to accelerate women-led small and medium enterprises financial access,” Kaba noted.  

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