GOOD NEWS: African Women Leadership Fund launched to empower female-led fund managers

The much-heralded African Women Leadership Fund (AWLF), has been formerly launched on the side-lines of the African Union Summit which took place in Addis Ababa last weekend.

The game-changing Fund will support women-owned and run fund management companies, and will raise investment and technical assistance capital and build a platform to identify, mentor, support, and invest in women entrepreneurs at scale.

The ground-breaking partnership, formally signed at the weekend in Addis Ababa between the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) and Standard Bank Group, will be transformational in breaking down structural barriers to inclusive investing in Africa.

The Fund, which was conceived in June 2019, will provide capital to both first time and experienced fund managers in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals 5 (Gender Equality) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and African Union Agenda 2063..

Over US $20 million was raised for the Fund on Saturday in Addis Ababa. The goal is to raise US $100 million. Presidents Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Macky Sall (Senegal) pledged of US $500,000 each.

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and othe rhigh level dignitaries, witness the signing of a partnership agreement between UNECA and Standard Bank Group represented by UNECA Executive Secretary Dr Vera Songwe and Sola David-Borha, the bank’s Chief Executive for African Regions

Meanwhile Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $10 million to the African Union to boost gender parity. Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg pledged $8 million to AU initiatives. Some of these resources will go towards some of the Fund’s  initiatives. 

Among the world leaders who witnessed the official launch were UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres, African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde. Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was also in attendance, as were a number of former African female heads of state.

A key goal of the fund is to empower women financial leaders who will drive economic growth, job creation, and create prosperity. 

“We are turning the tables and making women the decision-makers of investable money in Africa. We want women to be on the supply side of money, not only on the demand side,” said Dr. Vera Songwe, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ECA.

She added:  “The goal here is to give women-led financial investment activities a huge injection of jet fuel to bear out the proven positive correlation between gender balance, higher financial returns and developmental impact.”

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In Africa women-owned funds and businesses struggle due largely to lack of successful fundraising, insufficient exposure to systems and procedures, and lack of track records, among others.

They also contend with gender-based social expectation, resistance to women in leadership roles and lack of a support network. The fund will empower Africa’s women by giving them access to financial resources and investment management expertise.

Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank Group, said the fund aligns with the Bank’s purpose to drive Africa’s growth and “presents an opportunity for Standard Bank to leverage our footprint and expertise on the continent, and the relevant experience of our asset management arms –  Melville Douglas and STANLIB Multi-Managers –  to build Africa’s economies. Africa is our home, we drive her growth”.

Women fund managers will receive a deployment of capital, and subsequently invest in majority female-owned businesses. Even though the fund is sector agnostic, priority sectors will be education, manufacturing, healthcare, clean energy and agriculture. Additionally, technical assistance for fund managers and entrepreneurs will be offered through the initiative. This ranges from building capacity, direct mentoring to leveraging technology in health and education. 

In his remarks, Secretary-General Gutteres said, “power is not usually given, it must be taken.”

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