IFC, ADGM Launch Initiative to Boost Opportunities for Women-Led Startups and Businesses Across MENA

IFC, ADGM Launch Initiative to Boost Opportunities for Women-Led Startups and Businesses Across MENA

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 15, 2021—IFC and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) today launched She Wins Arabia, an initiative to help women-led startups across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) get the advice, finance, and mentorship they need to grow.  

She Wins Arabia will support incubators, accelerators, and venture capital funds—through capacity building and training, among others—so they can better help women-led startups and businesses. IFC and ADGM will also provide the opportunity to women-led startups to pitch their business plans to a panel of judges to receive financing and mentorship opportunities from key ecosystem leaders and potential investors.

IFC and ADGM, the UAE-based financial center, will also work directly with women-led startups and businesses in the region to support them with building their business plans and refining their pitches to potential investors.

“The UAE has made significant strides in the field of women empowerment and increased women’s presence in leadership positions and corporate boards of directors.” said Mohamed bin Hadi Al Hussaini, the UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs. “IFC’s cooperation with the country to develop studies that support gender balance is another testament to the country’s constant efforts in this field, especially with the Cabinet’s direction to support small enterprises headed by Emirati women through microfinance, and empowering their transformation and integration within the SMEs sector while engaging them in e-commerce platforms. At the Ministry of Finance, we will spare no effort to bolster relations with – and maximize the benefit of – the country’s network of institutions and organizations, in order to support and empower women’s march in economic development in the UAE and the region.

At ADGM, we are committed to supporting gender equality and advancing the participation of women in the startup landscape. We see this initiative as an excellent opportunity for us to drive ADGM’s gender agenda further and play an active role in creating opportunities for women across the region to participate actively in the economic development of their countries and the creation of a more diverse and inclusive society,” said H.E. Ahmed Jassim Al Zaabi, Chairman of ADGM.  

In a region where only 6 percent of private equity and venture capital funding goes to female-led enterprises, initiatives such as She Wins Arabia can play an important role in empowering women entrepreneurs. In addition, many incubators and venture capital funds do not yet tailor their workspaces, products, and services to women entrepreneurs.

MENA is brimming with talented women entrepreneurs whose ideas could help reshape the economies of the region,” said Makhtar Diop, IFC’s Managing Director. “Levelling the playing field, and making the start-up space more inclusive, is crucial for ensuring its growth and spurring economic development.”

She Wins Arabia, which is supported by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (WeFi) and the government of the Netherlands, will be implemented in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, the UAE, the West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen. The initiative will culminate with a competition to enable women-led startups access support and finance across the region, and network with funds, incubators, and accelerators.   

The initiative is part of IFC’s wider commitment to closing economic gaps between women and men in MENA. The region has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world, at 20 percent, and women have half the legal rights of men.

IFC’s approach to advancing gender equality in the region, focuses on increasing access to finance, skills, and digital technologies for female entrepreneurs; creating more and better jobs for women; and working alongside the World Bank to remove legal barriers to women’s economic participation.

About IFC

IFC—a member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2021, IFC committed a record $31.5 billion to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity as economies grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.

About ADGM

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), an international financial centre located in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, opened for business in October 2015. ADGM augments Abu Dhabi’s position as a global trade and business hub serving as a strategic link between the growing economies of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia and the rest of the world. It enables registered financial and non-financial institutions, companies and entities to operate, innovate and succeed within an international regulatory framework based on common law. Since its inception, ADGM has been awarded the “Financial Centre of the Year (MENA)” for four consecutive years for its initiatives and contributions to the financial and capital markets industry in the region. For more information, visit www.adgm.com

About We-Fi

We-Fi is a collaborative partnership among 14 donor governments, including the United Arab Emirates, six multilateral development banks that serve as implementing partners, and other public and private stakeholders. We-Fi invests in programs and projects increasing access to finance, markets, technology, and mentoring, while strengthening policy, legal and regulatory frameworks. As one of the We-Fi Implementing Partners, IFC supports private sector clients with investment and advisory services to expand financial services and market access for women-owned/led firms, as well as increasing the capacity of women entrepreneurs to run high-growth businesses. For more information, visit http://www.we-fi.org.

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