Freetown, Sierra Leone, March 13, 2015 –
A study released today by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, recommends a number of steps government, financial institutions, development organizations, and others should make to help women entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone and other countries overcome the challenges they face, and realize their full potential.
National Study on Women’s Access to Financing in Sierra Leone
was commissioned by IFC, the African Foundation for Development, and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women as a tool to gain insight into the legal, social, and financial obstacles women confront when launching or growing a business. It was published during the week of International Women’s Day.
Among its many recommendations, the study suggests that Sierra Leone’s government should appoint a national champion for women-owned smaller businesses; that banks should create products specifically designed for women and provide flexible and longer repayment periods on loans; and that women should be given more business training opportunities, and have a greater voice in policy dialogue.
Mary Agboli, IFC Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, said, “Ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity can only be achieved -- in Sierra Leone and globally -- by advancing women’s participation in the private sector and giving them the tools and support they need to succeed. IFC is committed to gender equality in the workplace and in all places and will use the findings of this study to help guide our future support for women in business.”
Sevi Simavi, Chief Executive Officer of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, said, “The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women seeks to empower women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies around the world. Increasing the number of women in profitable and sustainable businesses in Sierra Leone will generate huge social and economic benefits, strengthening both local communities and the country as a whole.”
The study was conducted across nine districts in Sierra Leone, and interviewed 222 women engaged in various types of businesses. About seventy percent of economically active women in the country work in or for micro or smaller businesses, yet most struggle to access the training and financing products they need to grow, including saving, credit, leasing, and pension facilities.
In Sierra Leone – as in most other countries across sub Saharan Africa -- evidence points to the great difficulties women face in accessing even the most basic financial services, with far-reaching implications for their own economic empowerment and the overall health of the national economy.
The study was funded and supported by IFC’s Conflict Affected States in Africa Initiative (CASA), which is helping Sierra Leone and eight other countries recovering from conflict rebuild their private sectors and create jobs and opportunities. CASA is supported by donor partners Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. Working with private enterprises in about 100 countries, we use our capital, expertise, and influence to help eliminate extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. In FY14, we provided more than $22 billion in financing to improve lives in developing countries and tackle the most urgent challenges of development. For more information, visit