US announces financial opportunity for women in developing markets

David Bohigian, Vice President of OPIC

The U.S. Government has announced a new financial opportunity for women’s economic empowerment in developing markets.

Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), US$500,000 in funding and US$100,000 in technical assistance, would be made available to the Women’s World Banking Asset Management (WAM) blended-finance fund to drive the initiative.

The financing would help mobilize commercial investment to benefit low-income women in Africa, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific.

The announcement was made at the 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in The Hague, co-hosted by the U.S. and Netherlands Governments.

Joining USAID, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) also announced its intent to provide US$25 million in financing to the fund.

The WAM fund is a blended-finance vehicle designed to attract private capital in developing markets by offering protection to commercial investors by lowering the risk of loss.

The WAM fund is structured to protect investors from downside risk, which makes investment more attractive and helps to mobilize additional donor investment into the fund.

This blended-finance approach seeks to catalyze capital to create a $100 million fund to invest specifically in women’s financial inclusion.

“With this significant level of investment, the initiative will lead to increased financial inclusion for low-income women by giving them opportunity to access loans, develop credit, build savings, and purchase insurance — all critical to breaking the poverty cycle, said David Bohigian, Vice President of OPIC.

He said the fund’s investments would expand women’s access to financial services, through customized products and digital services, to overcome challenges to financial inclusion.

The USAID-funded technical assistance will also expand due diligence capabilities around digital financial services and enable better assessments of financial institutions’ digital strategies, which are critical to expand the reach of their products and services to low-income women.

This partnership supports the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, a whole-of-government effort to promote women’s economic empowerment around the world.

W-GDP advances workforce development and vocational education for women; enables women to succeed as entrepreneurs; and removes the barriers that prevent women from participating in the global economy.

“USAID’s support of this fund through its INVEST initiative reflects a growing consensus that private investment is critical to advance countries on their journey to self-reliance,” he added.