Harare – Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera has called on financial institutions to cater more for women entrepreneurs.
He made the call at a recent indaba of the COMESA Federation of Women in Business (COMFWB), using the occasion to also recommit his government to greater financial inclusion of women.
“For a long time now, women have lagged in business because of lack of access to finance as start-up for their businesses. We as government are providing incentives to entrepreneurs by encouraging the formation of cooperatives, for in numbers there is complementation of skills,” President Chakwara said.
He also said the Malawi National Economic Empowerment Fund would be a key tool plank in bridging the gap between women and financial institutions.
President Chakwera’s administration recently gazetted the “SME Order”, which directs ministries and government department and agencies to support small and medium-sized businesses, many of which are run by women.
The meeting was themed “Realising Gender Responsive Procurement and Smart Inclusive Financing”, with discussions centred mainly on financial inclusion and increased investment in women
COMFWB chief executive officer Ms Ruth Negash said women’s collateral status did not define their bankability.
“Women are excellent money managers and not having collateral is not an indicator to that they are not credit-worthy. Most women were credit-worthy, as they are involved in complex financial processes through home-based institutions such as village savings and loan groups”, Ms Negash said.
She said despite limited incomes, women had long demonstrated that they could effectively transform households and communities.
“What remains now is for governments and financial institutions to create facilities to advance their businesses,” she added.
OMFWB Malawi chairperson Ms Barbara Banda noted that over 80 percent of Malawi’s national budget went to tendering processes for goods and services, with women receiving just one percent of that money.
Ms Amani Asfour – who chairs COMFWB Egypt and the African Business Council – suggested that Malawi set aside a 30 percent quota for women in all public procurement.
“Firstly, Malawi could preserve specific portions that would be open to women, youth and disabled persons-led organisations in the bidding process. Secondly, government regulators and mobile network operators should start to offer more digital payment systems solutions.”