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Washington, D.C., October 17, 2017
—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, signed an agreement with the government of Switzerland today to boost access to financial services for women in the Middle East and North Africa, to help close the economic gender gap and support growth and jobs.
The Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) will provide up to $5 million to support IFC Advisory’s Women Banking Champions initiative in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Women own over 300,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in MENA – about a third of the more than 1 million SMEs that form the backbone of the regional economy. But women entrepreneurs often struggle to obtain financing, with the average female-owned SME in the region needing an extra $270,000 in credit to thrive.
“Female labor force participation in MENA remains lower than anywhere else in the world. Economies across the region can gain tremendously from closing this gender inclusion gap,” said Raymund Furrer, Head of Economic Cooperation and Development at SECO. “Together with IFC, we want to change this and to close the gender inclusion gap. This is good economics and part of our mandate which stresses inclusion by access to economic opportunities for all.”
Nena Stoiljkovic, IFC’s Vice President of Blended Finance and Partnerships, said: “We have a strong track record of providing investment and advisory services to banks to build profitable business lines in the women’s customer segment, which is something we’d like to do more of across the Middle East and North Africa. Our partnership with SECO is instrumental in helping to unleash the potential of women entrepreneurs and set off a wave of innovation and job creation.”
As well as highlighting the fact that lending to women makes good business sense, the program will help lenders tailor their products and services for female borrowers. It will also provide customized training for women in business planning, management and financial literacy, and offer networking and mentoring opportunities to spur business growth. The program also supports thought leadership and knowledge management activities.
Switzerland is one of the largest donors to IFC’s advisory services, mainly through the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). Cooperation between SECO and IFC Advisory Services dates back to 1989.
SECO is Switzerland’s competence center for all core issues relating to economic policy. SECO’s economic development cooperation strives to achieve inclusive sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Its activities aim to create more and better jobs, to enhance trade and competitiveness, to support effective institutions and services and to foster climate resilient economies. For more information, visit
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. Working with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide, we use our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in the toughest areas of the world. In FY17, we delivered a record $19.3 billion in long-term financing for developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to help end poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit
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