7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Investing in women entrepreneurs

Investing in women entrepreneurs

Enabling women’s economic participation for sustainable growth and rural development

Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 10:45 to 12:00

Key points

  • Women entrepreneurs in Africa already generate significant employment and tax revenues while also gaining personal autonomy and independence.
  • Advances to gender equality could add US$28 trillion to global GDP by 2025.
  • The challenges facing woman entrepreneurs are well documented; what is needed now is action to unleash their business potential.
  • Future success will require access to commercial-scale credit, not just microfinance, for women to grow their businesses.
  • Negative male attitudes to women’s business ideas need to change in the banking sector.


Unleashing the power of women entrepreneurs would add an estimated US$28 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Women own between one-quarter and one-third of all businesses worldwide. What they need now is fairer access to credit and value-added markets. There also needs to be an end to negative male attitudes over finance, with women in Africa regularly told by commercial lenders that their business ideas simply will not work.

The experience of Ugandan entrepreneur Lovin Kobusingye has shown that with persistence and drive, African women’s agri-businesses can thrive. When Kobusingye was refused bank credit – despite a surge in orders following her appearances in the Ugandan press and on national TV – she received the fresh fish she needed for her processed fish ‘sausages’ on credit from her poor farmers’ suppliers and paid them out of the proceeds of the sales. Her company now exports products across Africa, trades with Lebanon and is exploring ways to enter European and US markets.

The European Investment Bank is among the international financial institutions that are trying to strengthen the business environment for women like Kobusingye, with new credit structures that will allow entrepreneurs to get enough large-scale loans for them to launch small and medium-sized enterprises or grow bigger corporations. Today, women in Africa are largely restricted to the type of microfinance that is typical of development programmes.

Every day, sexism is a barrier to many women seeking commercial bank loans, with some being asked if their husbands will sign the paperwork. E-mobile finance is one potential route to avoid this gender bias. Two Kenyan women, for example, have developed a phone-based credit score and lending system.

The She Trades initiative focuses on seven areas critical to the expansion of women-owned enterprises in Africa, helping women farmers to escape from their traditional roles in low-paid primary production. Comprehensive data collection on agri-businesses is seen as a first step to bring government and scientific partners together to diversify crops, increase output and promote value-adding activities such as food processing and exporting.

Getting women-owned businesses greater access to public contracts is another priority for the She Trades programme, given that, to date, women have only won 1 % of this lucrative business. She Trades also sees enhanced rights for African women to own and inherit productive assets as essential for the future.


Kobusingye’s humour and determination made her success story a pleasure to hear. Her practicality and can-do approach to problem solving overcame every obstacle.

Organised by

    Michael Hailu
    Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation
    Vanessa Erogbogbo
    Head of Women and Trade Programme
    International Trade Centre
    Lovin Kobusingye
    Managing Director
    Kati Farms Ltd
    Marie-Joseph Medzeme Engama
    Chargée de Programmes de Développement des Chaînes de Valeur agricole
    Plateforme Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d'Afrique Centrale
    Heike Ruettgers
    Head of Mandates Management
    European Investment Bank
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