Bridging the gender-finance gap in Zambia

12 October 2022
ITC News

International Trade Centre and Bank of Zambia join forces to mainstream gender-lens investing and advance Zambian women-led businesses in trade

The International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Bank of Zambia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to advance inclusive trade in Zambia. The partnership focuses on narrowing the gender-financing gap, which currently stands at 5.8 percentage points for formal financial inclusion, and unlocking new market and investment opportunities through strengthening the competitiveness of Zambian women-led businesses.

Women make up 48% of the labour force in Zambia and own about 36% of small businesses and 42% of micro enterprises in the country, according to the World Bank. Although Zambia has taken great strides to reduce the gender finance gap, with 58% of women reported as being financially included in 2020, as compared to 33% in 2015 according to Finscope, the gender gap persists on several fronts.

Men employ more formal financial services and access larger bank loans than women. Moreover, they receive more systemic support through policies based on data that lack a gender perspective.

The partnership aligns with ITC’s long-standing support of women-led small businesses and the Bank of Zambia’s strategic initiatives to reduce the gender gap and mainstream gender inclusivity in the financial sector as part of their 2020-2023 Strategic Plan.

Under its SheTrades Zambia project, ITC will carry out capacity-building activities, including workshops to increase the financial literacy of women entrepreneurs, and trainings to financial service providers on gender-lens investing and impact frameworks. The project will also seek to partner with key stakeholders in the financial ecosystem to promote financing opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

Moreover, both institutions will co-create a “Gender Lens Funding in Zambia” catalogue with an overview of the financial landscape for women in Zambia. It will also include an index of sustainable and inclusive funding options available. To encourage local ownership and reach rural communities, the catalogue will be translated into local languages and will be rolled out by key business support organizations.

“Despite their significance to the economy, women entrepreneurs face many challenges, including human resource constraints, increased competition, access to market and finance,” said Dr. Denny Kalyalya, Governor at the Bank of Zambia. “ITC’s timely support will enable them to leverage emerging trade opportunities and improve their linkages to formal supply chains, thereby contributing to Zambia’s economic growth. We believe that the planned activities will provide an opportunity for learning, innovation, partnerships, and alliances to ensure that women entrepreneurs are empowered.”

Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director at the International Trade Centre, added: “Although Zambia has one of the highest proportions of women entrepreneurs on the African continent, a big proportion of Zambian women are still financially excluded. We are at a turning point in history – the world seeks to ‘build forward better’ and to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Women entrepreneurs cannot be excluded from the equation. Collaborative efforts such as this new partnership are vital. I am so pleased that under this MoU, we will provide support to the women entrepreneurs and business support ecosystem so that we narrow the gender financing gap and make an inclusive and fair economy a reality.”


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