Women-led businesses (WSMEs) comprise about 60% of all micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Asia and the Pacific. As key engines of growth, WSMEs can play a critical role in the region’s efforts to spur job creation and achieve inclusive development.

However, women face an uneven playing field due to regulatory, financial, and cultural constraints, which stunt their business growth and hold them back from meeting their potential. For example, women have limited access to business training and networking opportunities. As for financial access, the IFC estimates the gender financing gap in Vietnam to be $1.19 billion.

Joining Forces

We-Fi and Asian Development Bank (ADB) will extend access to finance and training to women-led SMEs in Vietnam through the Women Accelerating Vibrant Enterprises in Southeast Asia and the Pacific (WAVES) program.

The program aims to unlock the growth potential of WSMEs in Vietnam and the Pacific. WAVES partners with governments, the private sector, and women’s businesses to build capacity across the entrepreneurial ecosystem and empower WSMEs to grow. Approximately 5,000 women-led SMEs from Vietnam and the Pacific will benefit from the 5-year program.

Program Description

The program is built on three components, adapted to each national context:

  1. Increasing WSMEs’ access to finance through innovative financial approaches, including performance-based lending to incentivize banks to increase their outreach to WSMEs. Support will also go to partner financial institutions to develop gender-responsive products and services tailored for the WSME market.
  2. Strengthening the enabling environment by working with national partners, including government agencies, support organizations, and women’s business associations, to develop stronger WSME-focused policies, regulations, and action plans.
  3. Developing the capacity of WSMEs by promoting financial literacy and business acceleration programs, mentorship, and networking opportunities.


The WAVES program will focus on capacity development of over 5000 WSMEs over five years through financial literacy and business acceleration programs, mentorship, and networking opportunities, in order to grow their enterprises. It is expected that this will improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem for WSMEs, enabling them to grow their businesses, and inspiring other women to start their own enterprises. The program will also contribute to strengthening evidence and data on WSMEs in order to make policies more gender-inclusive.

Progress to Date

The first year of implementation of the WAVES program in Vietnam has focused on policy dialogue with government counterparts; engaging financial institutions on different blended finance models to increase on-lending to women entrepreneurs; establishing the implementation framework and agreements between ADB and the Government of Vietnam; and assembling resources for technical assistance activities, gender gap assessments of financial institutions, and collecting sex-disaggregated data from financial institutions.

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