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By Wendy Teleki, Head of the We-Fi Secretariat

2023 is coming to a close with a welcome flurry of activity in support of women entrepreneurs.  From the World Bank Annual Meetings in Marrakesh to COP28 in Dubai, and in Santo Domingo, Jakarta and Amsterdam we have seen bold new commitments to close financing gaps for women entrepreneurs.

The launch of the WE Finance Code in Marrakesh and a new US commitment to We-Fi at COP28, have set the stage for a year of action in 2024.  Momentum will accelerate, with 24 countries expected to launch the WE Finance Code next year and a new financing round by We-Fi to support women entrepreneurs addressing climate challenges.

Wendy Teleki

Head of the We-Fi Secretariat

In Marrakesh, we heard from Valeria Diaz Romero, a Bolivian fintech entrepreneur, who noted: “We need institutions to look at women and their potential through a different lens…to consider women entrepreneurs as strategic partners.”   It feels like it may just be happening.  Valeria is one of over 150,000 women entrepreneurs in 67 countries who have been supported by We-Fi’s activities.  She runs a fintech startup that helps women entrepreneurs in Latin America access credit. With support from We-Fi and IDB Lab, Valeria’s startup has already supported over 500 women-led small businesses.  Yet financing for her business remains a challenge.

It is because of Valeria and entrepreneurs like her that in October we launched the WE Finance Code, a pioneering initiative designed to drive commitment, leadership and innovation to close these financing gaps and enable women to succeed as entrepreneurs.

(Left to right) Valeria Diaz, Co-Founder & CEO, Munay (Bolivia) and Hanan Shahin, Co-Founder & CEO, Bloomcart (Jordan) address the session: “Engaging Women as Leaders: Innovation, Financing, and Collective Action”  at the 2023 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund.

Already, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia have launched the WE Finance Code in their countries, and the Netherlands has launched “Code-V” an associated initiative with over 40 signatories.  The leaders of six multilateral development banks signed a joint statement endorsing the Code, and Standard Chartered, one of the world’s leading financial institutions, the Financial Alliance for Women, Women’s World Banking and the World Savings & Retail Bank Institute have become signatories, while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has joined We-Fi as a supporter of the Code.

The tremendous progress we’ve made in the past few weeks testifies to the momentum We-Fi’s partners have built for women’s economic empowerment – but there is still so much to look forward to.

The challenges and opportunities facing women entrepreneurs due to climate change are immense, and were a big topic of discussion at COP28.  In Dubai, the U.S. announced a new $10 million contribution to We-Fi to further support women entrepreneurs, particularly as we look to help women responding to climate challenges. At a time when only 0.01% of global funding goes to projects that address both climate and women’s rights, We-Fi can help mobilize billions more for women entrepreneurs tackling climate challenges.

There is an estimated $26 trillion dollar market opportunity in the green transition, but not enough is being done to ensure women are not left behind and can actually become drivers of change.  A great example of the kind of work that can be done is SheWinsClimate, which was launched at COP28 by IFC with We-Fi support.  We-Fi also partnered at COP28 with EIB, EBRD and 2XGlobal in a workshop to explore other ways to better support women entrepreneurs in the climate-gender nexus, in preparation for our upcoming call.

The resilience and innovation of women are key to addressing the climate crisis. What we know is that with strong enough partners, we can make a difference.  Since 2018, We-Fi has facilitated over $3.6 billion to women-led SMEs through partnerships with over 400 private and public-sector institutions. Stay tuned for more results as we launch our annual report in the new year.

Here’s to the power of women entrepreneurs as we move into the New Year.