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8th Annual MIGA Gender Leadership Award: Innovation through Female Entrepreneurship

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MIGA’s Gender Leadership Award takes place each March in honor of International Women’s Day. This year’s recipient was Claudia María González Arteaga, Chief Financial Officer at Bancóldex in Colombia. It was the first in-person ceremony in four years and saw a crowd of over 100 attendees. The Gender Leadership Award is MIGA’s flagship annual event and recognizes the accomplishments of clients who promote gender equality both through their work and in their workplace. 

González traveled from Bogotá, Colombia to receive her award in Washington. “On behalf of Bancóldex and all my teams, we accept this generous acknowledgment,” she said during her acceptance speech. “And this incentivizes us to continue having an impact on the Colombian economy and to close gaps and create opportunities for all businesswomen.”

The award ceremony also featured a keynote address from World Bank Group Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer Anshula Kant, as well as words from MIGA Executive Vice President Hiroshi Matano and Vice President and Chief Risk, Legal and Administrative Officer Ethiopis Tafara.

“Bancóldex CFO Claudia González has been a champion for female entrepreneurship and a driving force for the development of new products,” Matano said. “Her commitment to excellence in leadership and to furthering gender equality makes this award a well-deserved acknowledgment of her professional achievements and endeavors.”

The ceremony was capped by a panel discussion moderated by Joan M. Larrea, Chief Executive Officer of Convergence. In addition to González, the panel included Christine Souffrant Ntim, Founder and CEO of Global Startup Ecosystem; Junaid Kamal Ahmad, MIGA’s Vice President of Operations; Maya Khonje-Stewart, Co-Founder and Director of Yellow Solar Power; and Mohamed Gouled, IFC’s Vice President of Industries.
 

SPEAKERS ?

00:00 Welcome

02:28 Remarks by Hiroshi Matano, Executive Vice President, MIGA

06:51 Remarks by Anshula Kant, Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director, World Bank Group

18:57 Explainer video: Introducing the awardee

23:22 Remarks by Ethiopis Tafara, Vice President and Chief Risk, Legal and Administrative Officer,

27:01 Remarks by Claudia María González Arteaga, Chief Financial Officer, Bancóldex

30:50 Panel discussion

1:10:47 Closure

[Rhea Brathwaite]

On International Women's Day for MIGA's 8th Annual Gender Leadership Award. My name is Rhea Brathwaite, and I am an Integrity specialist. I'm also one of this year's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advocates. Today, I'm joined by my fellow DE&I advocates. In particular, Christophe Vauthier, Jan Lin, and Manu Sharma. We all wish you a warm welcome. This event is being live-streamed in English and Spanish on World Bank Live. So we also want to welcome our viewers online. And if you'd like to tweet about this event, please use #IWD2023.

Now, for those of you in the room, some parts of our program will be in Spanish, so you can hear them in English using the earphones provided. Originating in 2016, MIGA's Gender Leadership Award was designed to recognize leaders who work with MIGA and have shown a commitment of seeking to further the cause of women's advancement and gender equality. Thank you.

[Christophe Vauthier]

For today's program, we have an impressive list of speakers beginning with Hiroshi Matano, MIGA's Executive Vice President, followed by our keynote speaker, Anshula Kant, Managing Director and CFO of the World Bank Group, and then MIGA's Vice President, Ethiopis Tafara. We also have a stellar panel that will discuss how to promote innovation and entrepreneurship by women, which will include our guest of honor, Claudia María González Arteaga, Chief Financial Officer at Bancóldex. Our panel will be moderated by Joan Larrea, CEO of Convergence. Thanks to you all for joining us for this important discussion. Hiroshi, the floor is yours.

[Hiroshi Matano]

Thank you, Christophe. It's nice to see all friends here, and thank you for coming. So ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for the 8th Annual MIGA Gender Leadership Award. As mentioned, the Gender Award was established in 2016 and pays tribute to the women leaders who have made a stride in gender equality on their own work, as well as helping promote the goals of the World Bank Group. This award represents MIGA's dedication and commitment to making gender a priority of action. MIGA has a very unique role and position between the public and the private sector. As part of the World Bank Group, MIGA benefits from the support from the World Bank, IFC colleagues, and the knowledge that they have built in this area over the years. At the same time, in working with our private sector clients who provide critical financing to governments and state-owned enterprises, MIGA is able to share knowledge to address the barriers to women equal participation, employment, and access to goods and services.

Sharing such knowledge is important because the private sector has a critical role to play in the narrowing general gaps given the ability to mobilize capital, create jobs, and generate economic opportunities. One of the prime example would be MIGA's support of the private loans to Bancóldex where MIGA has guaranteed two loans, one in 2020 during the pandemic and the second one in 2022. Both loans supported capital flows to small enterprises, including those owned by women. In the second loan, Bancóldex agreed to specific gender commitments which encompassed a general action plan that includes the development of new products and services aimed at women. In addition, in August 2020, Bancóldex partnered with IFC on our business finance communication training program for the small businesses which focus on those owned by women.

Bancóldex is also doing the internal work necessary to help close the gender gap in Colombia's financial sector. It has agreed to conduct gender training for staff as well as the staff of the partnering financial institutions. We know that Bancóldex will demonstrate to other financial institutions in Colombia that the supporting business owned by women is both smart and good for the country's development.

In the center of all this, Bancóldex CFO, Claudia González, has been a champion for female entrepreneurship and driving force for the development of new products. So thank you for that. Her commitment to the excellence in leadership and to further engender equality makes this award a well-deserved acknowledgement of her professional achievements and endeavors. And the recognition of her achievements, thesis theme is innovation through female entrepreneurship. I look forward to today's discussion how to access to finance can unleash the iconic potential of women entrepreneurs across the globe, and we have few examples that can showcase that. And I congratulate again Ms. González for her leadership, and thank you for all for joining this very important event.

It is very appropriate, in my opinion, that another powerful CFO with a long experience in the bank industry will be our keynote speaker. So with my pleasure, let me introduce Anshula Kant, Managing Director and CFO of the World Bank Group to deliver her address. Thank you.

[Anshula Kant]

Hiroshi... Oh. This technology, we are not used to anymore. Okay, I think I've got that right. Good afternoon, everyone, and it's really a pleasure to be here today. Hiroshi, thank you for inviting me, and it's such an honor to join you in this function or in this event when we are congratulating Claudia González for her stellar achievements in the field of finance, in the field of supporting women in their businesses, and in their entrepreneurship. This year's MIGA Gender Leadership Award, I think it is very well-deserved based on all I read about you and the achievements you've done. So this is really great. I think your work in promoting access to financing opportunities and technical assistance for women really stands out as the key to unleashing their potential. Studies estimate... Can't hear me? Okay.

Studies estimate that as much as $5 to $6 trillion in economic gains could be achieved if only women could start and scale businesses at the same pace and rate as men do when they do start their businesses. At the same time, if you come to the women at their own micro and individual level, starting and growing a business is a powerful tool, is a powerful enabler for women to build their better lives for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. When we think about challenges for women entrepreneurs, it would be appropriate to do so through the lens of micro, small, and medium enterprises or MSEs, which are the foundation of developing economies worldwide. While these enterprises serve as vital drivers of economic growth and poverty reduction, generating 7 out of 10 jobs globally, 40% of them lack access to financing and capital markets. The 23% of MSEs that are owned by women entrepreneurs, these face even greater barriers than their male own counterparts when it comes to accessing finance.

Estimates indicate that there is a $1.7 trillion in unmet financing gap for MSEs owned by women. Finding effective ways to meet this need can unleash the immense potential of women-led businesses. The first step to solve this challenge is to, of course, identify the barriers that women face as they start and grow businesses, and these differ from country to country. It could be something like social constraints, it could be cultural barriers, and these can actually hold women back from going into business. Educational opportunities too vary from country to country, from region to region, and depending on what educational qualifications or access to education women have that sort of informs the knowledge and technical skills they acquire or are not able to acquire to start a business. But I do believe that women can overcome some of these barriers. It's not easy, but they can overcome some of these barriers through forming professional networks, through mentoring, through coaching, and through supporting each other. And I would urge the men to have a similar approach as women to supporting and mentoring and fostering professional women.

In many countries, and this is the key, many women have limited or no property rights and virtually no control over assets. This prevents them from offering real collateral securities if they want to go and take a loan from the bank. And I'm sure, Claudia, you know this very well. Another critical thing is that women often don't have credit histories. So how important it is? I remember when I was working in State Bank of India in India, when we started this whole initiative of financial inclusion, how difficult and hard it was to get women to open bank accounts. We started with one bank account per household. And quite often, it was the male who was opening the bank account. So you don't have a bank account, there is no question of starting a credit history.

It is really important for banks in such situations to use innovative credit engines, which can use big data, which can use the larger data to find ways and means to reassure themselves as they offer small microcredits to women in this situation. And of course, alternatives to traditional loan collaterals could be something like gold loans. We tried that in India, again, with a lot of success. Largely, men using their women's gold to actually take loans, but at least, it was a step in the right direction.

And of course, when women have to rely on internal or informal sources for starting their business, it’s not the same as— It does not provide them with, let me put it this way, a steady professional start to a business they want to run. And quite often, of course, these are in much smaller amounts and they are more expensive than the interest rates which banks or more formal sources of financing would offer.

And one other thing it's important to highlight is, and IFC, I believe, has done this research that women are actually a safer bet than men when it comes to bank loans. Women business owners tend to be more reliable and are likely to pay back their debt. And I can say this from personal experience. I remember from my early years as a branch manager of a public sector bank in India, we were offering these very small micro loans to women who wanted to start enterprises. I wouldn't even call them businesses; they were so small. But I found that with very small amounts of financing and some technical assistance, these women were actually steadily able to grow their business, provide some employment in the local area, and also, of course, better the lives of their families.

And I think what really worked for them and what helped them was the fact that once we had committed a line of credit or approved a credit limit for them, albeit a small one, but it assured them of... There was a certainty attached to this financing, and it was at reasonable interest rates. And plus, of course, there was some element of technical support that we were providing in terms of market information. Again, this asymmetry of market information really works against women entrepreneurs. So I was happy with the outcomes and truly, from personal experience, I can validate what IFC research shows that women tend to be better, they tend to have better repayment track records for banks and financial institutions. So I think clearly for extending banking services and credit facilities to women entrepreneurs is both profitable, and it is a sound business strategy. We are not doing them a service. We are serving ourselves if, as bankers, we can offer good lending products to women entrepreneurs.

So MIGA is working closely with client banks to leverage their expertise and support lending institutions to direct financing to women-owned enterprises and access to tools they need to run efficient businesses. In addition to mobilizing $650 million in lending commitments for women-owned businesses, MIGA is supporting its clients in building gender capacity by providing technical assistance to undertake gender diagnostics, develop and implement gender strategies, and provide gender training to bank staff. To narrow the financing gap, it is critical that institutions integrate into the day-to-day practices, a gender-oriented approach. Without this approach, progress will happen. I'm sure progress will happen willy-nilly, but it's going to be really slow. So making financing available is an important step in helping women entrepreneurs succeed.

One other point I want to highlight that in today's world, using a basic minimum level of technology and having some form of digital presence are actually a given; they're assumed. So the reality part is very different for women entrepreneurs in emerging economies. There is lack of access to technology and digital tools, and this creates an additional barrier or disadvantage for women business owners. I think it's a fact that there is a digital divide between developed economies and developing economies, between urban areas and rural areas, between men and women. So I think this Internet access technical training, access to technology, and that gives you... It's very powerful. It gives you access to market informations where you can source the cheapest raw material, where you can sell the best. I think that market information is really critical for a successful business.

So we must encourage lending institutions to innovate and implement initiatives to serve women entrepreneurs. The work that Ms. Claudia González has been doing at Bancóldex is a clear example of this dynamic in action. During the last five years, Bancóldex has offered financing to more than 270,000 business women in Colombia with loans exceeding COP $1.98 trillion. It has also designed exclusive lines of credit for women entrepreneurs that promote gender equality and access to financial resources. Just as important, women have greatly benefited from the bank's financial education programs representing 55% of participants over the past four years. Congratulations, Claudia, on these great achievements.

So let me just close by saying that while significant progress has been achieved on gender equality when it comes to women in business, much work remains to be done. At the World Bank Group, we are committed to strengthening women's economic rights so that they can have equal access to public support programs, digital technologies, and enhanced access to financing for women entrepreneurs. And this can help them succeed in their business ventures of course.

Big thanks to MIGA, Hiroshi, and your entire team for hosting this event to recognize the groundbreaking work that Claudia has done. It is vital that we continue such discussions, such events, and such meetings to discuss about this important theme of women in business, how to unleash their potential to make sure that they can contribute equally to the growth and development of emerging market economies. Thank you. Thanks.

[Christophe Vauthier]

Thank you so much, Anshula, for those compelling words, and I would say for the calls to actions addressed to all of us. Before I continue, I just want to mention we have a very full room, and we've seen some people are still standing. There are just a few seats at the front if people at the back standing want to come in front. And now with that, please join me in watching a video highlighting the inspiring accomplishments that Claudia has worked hard to achieve, both at Bancóldex as well as for women, throughout Colombia.

[Video]

How do women leaders contribute to gender equality both inside and outside their companies? We've come to Bogota to meet Claudia María González Arteaga, Chief Financial Officer of Bancóldex, a state-owned bank in Colombia.

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In 2022, Claudia promoted a guarantee from MIGA for a loan with JPMorgan for $300 million dollars. The loan supported Bancóldex's funding for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. Bancóldex also launched a credit line specifically for women-owned businesses. Lacy Cruz and her clothing company based in Bogota benefited from the program.

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However, Lacy's clothing company took a hard hit during the pandemic.

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At Bancóldex, Claudia is part of the leadership team that promotes gender equality within the institution.

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[Speaking in foreign language]

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[Ethiopis Tafara]

So, Claudia, I don't know what more there is to say. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Ethiopis Tafara. I'm the Vice President for Risk, Legal, and Sustainability at MIGA. And today, I have the great honor of introducing this year's award recipient, Ms. Claudia María González Arteaga. And it's not a coincidence that the award is today, March 8th, the International Women's Day. One of this year's themes is embrace equity, which really speaks to me because it highlights that equity and equality are not the same. Women in many countries have greater rights and opportunities than they did in 1975 when the International Women's Day was first recognized by the United Nation. However, women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts. Women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics. And globally, women's education, health, and violence against them is worse than it is the case for men.

So how do we breach this gender gap? Embracing equity is about creating opportunities for women to be successful and reach equality where it's lacking. It's about removing barriers to prevent women from thriving the supplies at any level, from educational opportunities for girls, to representation at the boardroom, to lending programs that help female entrepreneurs. And Claudia is a great example of someone who uses their position to promote inclusivity and develop opportunities for women.

As you've seen in the video, Claudia is the Chief Financial Officer at Bancóldex. She has over 15 years’ experience in an industry where women still make up just 18% of all C-suite roles. Claudia's impressive achievements make her a role model not only in the industry but for women everywhere. And we know from the video that she's also a great mentor to the women on her team. In her role as Chief Financial Officer at Bancóldex, Claudia is in a strong position to influence how the bank serves its customers. And we at MIGA were impressed and inspired by her commitment to support female entrepreneurs that looked to the bank for financial support. Claudia has promoted the developments of the Bancóldex gender policy with the goal of adopting the gender approach in internal processes, products and services, risk analysis, monitoring, and evaluation of initiatives. This policy shows Bancóldex's commitment to inclusive business development.

Claudia also recognized a clear need for products developed with women in mind. She championed these products which take into account women's dual roles as financial managers of their households and small enterprises as well. And she continues to support the integration of policies and practices that facilitate access to financing and technical support for women entrepreneurs in Colombia. Given her extraordinary background, MIGA's management was excited to choose Claudia as this year's Gender Leadership Award recipient. With that, may I please ask our executive vice president, Hiroshi Matano, to present MIGA's 2023 Gender Leadership Award? Congratulations, Claudia.

[Claudia María González Arteaga’s Interpreter]

Well, good afternoon to everybody here at this meeting and all of you that are online to attend this meeting. I receive this and I accept this award on behalf of all business women in Colombia, those that work day to day to make their dreams a reality and to transform lives. So I thank Mr. Hiroshi Matano who is MIGA's executive director; Anshula Kant who is the General Director at the World Bank; Junaid Ahmad, Vice President of Operations for MIGA; and all of MIGA's team that worked with Bancóldex in two projects that were able to provide financing to Colombian women. And my thanks to Carlos Davila, the head of the team of credit for Colombia, and all the people that work in MIGA that worked from Washington DC to make this a reality.

So I also greet especially Javier Diaz who is the president of Bancóldex who is here today and everybody, all the teams at the bank that I feel extremely proud to be working with and to have an impact on businesses, families, those that are the base of a Colombian society that is driven and business-minded. So on behalf of Bancóldex and all my teams, we accept this generous acknowledgement. And this incentivizes us to continue having an impact on the Colombian economy and to close gaps and create opportunities for all business women in Colombia. Thank you very much.

[Rhea Brathwaite]

Thank you so much, Claudia, for those inspiring words. Now, I'd like to hand over to our panel moderator, Joan Larrea, of Convergence and invite our panelists to take the stage.

[Joan Larrea]

Are our microphones on? It sounds like it, right? [Inaudible]. It's a pleasure to be here this afternoon. I'm Joan Larrea the CEO of Convergence Blended Finance, which is the global network for blended finance. And may I just make a comment about that the subject of gender does not require the use of blended finance unless you're trying to prove that the risk profile of women is different from the perceived risk profile of women. So I just want to go on the record since I'm moderating, and I get to have my way. I am really delighted to be here. I feel like I've been handed the keys to a sports car and only 40 minutes to drive it. So I hope to take you around the block in our 40 minutes together.

Let me introduce who we have here. First of all, Junaid Kamal Ahmad who is the Vice President of Operations of MIGA and hosting us today. Thank you very much. Claudia needs no introduction. Mohamed Gouled, Vice President of Industries who oversees banking of women at IFC. And both IFC and MIGA have supported Bancóldex so it's wonderful to have them together on the stage. We have Maya Stewart, the founder of Yellow Solar Power in Malawi, and Christine Ntim who also founded Global Startup Ecosystem. So we have two female entrepreneurs on stage, our awardee and two development banks. Hence, my comments about being given the keys to a sports car.

So Junaid, tell us, in addition to every year making an award, which is important for recognition but not the core of your operations, tell us what MIGA is doing to really keep gender at the forefront of your operations and to help your clients actually figure out new ways to work on the gender front.

[Junaid Kamal Ahmad]

With pleasure. First, Claudia, congratulations.

[Claudia María González Arteaga]

Thanks.

[Junaid Kamal Ahmad]

It's wonderful to see you get recognized for everything that you've been doing and Javier for Bancóldex for playing the leading role that you play. When we look at the issue of gender parity, we recognize that there are probably three important channels that development focuses on. One is access to services, whether it's financial services or health or education services. The second is economic empowerment jobs. It's not enough to give services. Enabling women to actually earn is equally important. The third is agency through political representation. In India, for example, the growth of microfinance has led to a movement of women into local government, and that has changed the nature of public expenditure. We in MIGA have really focused on the service delivery side. And when you look at the service delivery, you have to recognize that sometimes targeted service delivery at gender is important, but often non-targeted is equally important.

So the ability to have a hospital in Bogota in the periphery of the city that reaches out to low-income communities, the impact on women is huge even though it's not gender-focused. In the case of MIGAs support to the municipality of Bogota in terms of the hospital, actually, a lot of focus on natal and neonatal and that, of course, had a big impact on gender. But the other is, of course, financial services. And that's been our main channel in the partnership with Bancóldex facilitating their access to global resources. But not only Bancóldex. They are actually six major financial institutions in six countries that we are providing the guarantees. And we are working in partnership with these institutions to really ensure that their lending or their services are targeted towards women-headed firms, small and medium enterprises. That's a very, very important access. But behind this is a lot of effort by a MIGA team that in fiscal year 21 put out the first gender strategy implementation plan.

Now, I don't know how MIGA got away with finally in 21 coming up with the gender plan because this should have been done long time ago. But my hats off to the team that put it there because it's that plan that enables us to work with Bancóldex. It's that plan that enables us to work with financial institution to look at gender-based violence, to look at getting women into jobs. So the money plays as an instrument as important role, but the thought process behind it, the planning is really behind what this team has been focused on and that's the relation. That's the soft power, if you will, in terms of the way we engage with the financial institutions.

But as I said, it's always important, and our analysis shows that you have to ensure access to electricity because in public spaces, lighting and safety is very important. Access to transport, we're doing several programs that we're supporting in Africa in terms of bus transports. Improving public transport has an impact on women and girls. But the big instrument that we have is, of course, financial intermediation. And that plays a major role in ensuring that money flows into small and medium enterprises, micro-enterprises led by women or employing women.

[Joan Larrea]

Thank you very much. And I do think that's important point that is the whole gender subject gets more sophisticated people. We go beyond thinking about female-led companies to companies that are also delivering on these gender-specific needs. Thank you very much.

Let me turn to Claudia if I may. Claudia, our keynote speaker today was the CFO of the World Bank Group and is female. I'm the CEO of a small company and I'm female, but I come from, in part, the private equity world. And here you are as a woman and a CFO. So you could get the idea that we've solved it all. But I know from my private equity experience that something like 8% of manager level people in the private equity world are women today. And I just heard the statistic that 18% is the participation of women in the financial industry in Colombia. I think I heard that statistic earlier today. So I'm really interested in your story. What have been your challenges to get where you are today as a CFO of Bancóldex Colombia's development bank? Tell us what your experience has been, what your challenges have been.

[Claudia María González Arteaga’s Interpreter]

Thank you, Joan. It's been step by step. It's been a challenge along the way to really make headway in the financial sector because it's dominated by men. However, there are several women I work with every day. And when I say step by step, we have been able to really take on important roles in Colombia. We have made strides in the financial sector with respect to gender equality and equity. We have several women who are CEOs and CFOs of financial institutions, and 30% of the boards are women. So it's been a challenge. It's been difficult, but it's been very gratifying to be able to position myself in this sector. Currently, one of the challenges is to help other women use the roads that have been paved so that we can give more back to our society and realize ourselves through work.

[Joan Larrea]

And I actually would like to ask you a follow-on question about those female entrepreneurs that you have supported. How has your experience helped you know how to help them? And another one of these would be terrific.

[Claudia María González Arteaga’s Interpreter]

My work has focused on what the bank can do. I have been insured all resources to meet the demands for loans that come through banks to a Colombian or for Colombian women who are business women. In Bancóldex, we've been working on the design for credit lines which meet the specific needs of business women. In recent years, we've created two credit lines which give liquidity only to women, and we have been able to give services to 35,000 women entrepreneurs through these credit lines. In 2020, we, during the pandemic, had five credit lines, and we dealt with 178,000 entrepreneurs. 78,000 were SMEs and thousands of them were women. So we have these credit lines that we offer. We have a program that also deal with equity and private funds.

[Joan Larrea]

60% of it. [Inaudible] I'm so sorry, Claudia. It's just this static.

[Claudia María González Arteaga]

[Speaking in foreign language]. Okay.

[Interpreter]

Can you hear me? This is the interpreter. Hello? This is...

[Joan Larrea]

That's fine. Carry on. Everybody else can understand, right?

[Claudia María González Arteaga’s Interpreter]

But with respect to investment in equity, we have a private equity fund where entrepreneurs can get loans, and we focus on women. We also support professional managers who are women. And we have funds that support women, and we have gender policies, and we want these funds to have gender policies. And so we also provide training, technical assistance. Many women participate, and we have 55% of women participating in these technical assistance programs. And within the bank, as far as HR is concerned, we are striving to have equity. 33% of our high-level staff are women, 46% at a mid-level. And the strategy, human talent, and our money are managed by women.

[Joan Larrea]

So having the metrics alone is a huge improvement. Thank you very much, Claudia. I will come back to you if we have time. I did want to move on to Mohamed representing IFC. I wanted to ask you the sort of tell us the pitch from a development bank's point of view on working on enhancing credit opportunities for women. What is the development bank thesis behind that? It is not out of the goodness of your hearts. There must be a plan or a reason why it connects to the mission of IFC and MIGA for that matter.

[Mohamed Gouled]

And goodness of your heart. Thank you. Thank you very much. And I think before I answer the business case, which you said is not out of the goodness of our heart, I would like to say that there's a moral imperative as well. And the moral imperative is that we don't ask what is the business case when we are providing financing or when we are providing access to many. So the fact that the question actually has to arise as to make the case for women is somewhat questionable. But having said that, we're not very good. We still have to close that moral gap. So let's go into the business case.

In terms of the business case, it's fairly straightforward, and many of you have already made references to it. Anshula, in her speech, made few references to those. Women-owned businesses are known from research point of view to actually have productivity that's different than men-owned businesses because of the skillset they bring to the table which are different. It's really not a substitution. So you don't substitute a man for a woman, but it's an addition. So that productivity aspect and how it helps the economy is one element.

I think the second element one can point is that prepayments of loans that are provided to women tend to be better than loans for groups of men. Again, this is common sense backed up by data and one would wonder then what's still holding it back. And frankly, at the end of the day, it works back to the societal biases that have been there with us.

You also have to look at it from the country's point of view. The more women-owned businesses, the more women have access to finance, the more small businesses that are created and larger businesses, the better off the country's growth, prosperity, and reflection in the GDP is clear. That's another element.

We also, when you think about it, spend as countries quite a bit of money from budgetary resources on educating both men and women. It's done a pity that we don't provide the tools that women need to participate in the labor force when we have made all this investment upfront. Basically, you have a global public good that's going to waste. And I think we have to step back and think about that and how there is a contradiction in the investments we make in women and the outcome and the benefits we are deriving from their contribution and closing that gender gap.

Finally, I think I would say that women have a very different role when it comes to business. As we know, when they are on boards, those boards make better decisions. When it comes to profitability, women-owned businesses tend to show less failure and more profitability. And frankly, when it comes to repayment, as I indicated earlier, I think what makes the difference is not the ability to repay but the willingness. I don't know if I'm allowed to say this, but fundamentally, women are more honest so thank you.

[Joan Larrea]

Thanks. So in part, I've heard the two of you from the development bank side talk about amplifying the voice of women through economic empowerment or economic participation as well as the yield on investment of a country of its human resources and also the direct link between investing in women and the growth of an economy. And that's, of course, your area of work.

So we have two examples of women entrepreneurs, and I think you're going to hear this from a personal point of view. Let me start with Maya Stewart, Yellow Solar Power of Malawi. This is a household level PAYGO electrification business model. And as I understand it, they use a network of local entrepreneurs to actually deliver the service. And if I'm not mistaken, you said yesterday when I spoke to you that your company now is operating 11% of the electrification of the country. And that's not going to have happened if she hadn't gotten some support somewhere. But I'm going to ask you the same backstory that I asked Claudia. Were people galloping to your door to give you money when you had this idea? Malawi is one of the poorest countries on Earth. This is a female entrepreneur. Surely, there's a line outside your door.

[Maya Khonje-Stewart]

Oh, thanks, Joan. I wish that was the case. Unfortunately, it was not. Yellow was founded by myself and my co-founder in 2018, and we only got our first funding in 2020. So it took a very long time.

[Joan Larrea]

From whom?

[Maya Khonje-Stewart]

So our first funding actually came from a grant from EEP Africa. At that particular time, they were looking for different projects to finance. And coincidentally, I decided... When we had started off in 2018, the concept of trying to roll out as many solar products into the economy was what was driving the whole business. However, we noticed that a lot of the people who are doing it, the agents who are coming into our funnel are mostly men. And myself, being a woman in energy, I wanted to see more women joining the agents network, going out then selling solar products. But how do you go out and convince a woman to climb a roof and start installing a solar panel?

But that didn't deter me. I could easily climb that roof and do it myself. So I figured, if I can do it, so can the women out there. Unfortunately, we didn't have the finances at that time to try and push the agenda of bringing more women into the energy space. That being said, the reason for women not coming in was also financial constraints on the part of the rural entrepreneurs out there. Most of the people in Malawi, and in general, across Africa, the person who owns a cell phone... Oh, so let me just go back. For us to have agents into our network, you have to have a smartphone. And most of the women who we wanted to come on board did not own a smartphone. In fact, by end of 2018, we only had one female agent out of 20 agents at that time.

So I said, "Okay. There must be a way we can probably try and entice these women to come on board." And when I asked the agent was the only agent at that time, the female agent, she said the reason how she joined was because her husband borrowed her his phone. So I said, "Okay. What does that mean? Does that mean female people in the rural markets don't have access to a phone or a smartphone? They said, "No. Well, most cell phones are owned by the man. They are the breadwinners. They are the ones who go out and invest the money into any products or any goods for that matter." So I wanted to come up with an idea to do some sort of fundraising, go out, and get as many women on board. But if I talk to, at that time, my angel investors, they said there's no way they're going to put money into that.

What I really wanted was to get cell phones, access to digital tool so that the women can come on board. So I had to wait a cool two years before I could get access to this grant that was offered by EEP Africa specifically targeting women in the energy space. They gave me 500,000 euros at that time, and it was from that grant itself that we actually ended up catalyzing the entire business. Without it, we estimated reaching... Right now, we've reached about 350,000 households electrified. We anticipated to hit that number by 2025, and we did that within a space of four years. So we really rose really quickly. Thank you.

I want to also elaborate that when the money came in, there was Maya, the female co-founder who wanted to put the money into the female agents. And then there was my partner, the co-founder who's a male who said, "I'm going to put the focus on building the business on this side. You focus on the women on that side." And it worked perfectly because we both had similar interests. We wanted the business to grow, but I wanted the women to come on board. And when the women came on board, coincidentally, our portfolio started increasing much faster. We started getting better sales. We started having people paying back for their solar system much faster because ultimately the biggest consumers of energy in Africa, anywhere in the world is the woman. It's the woman who needs to go cook. It's the woman who needs to go and take care of the child. It's the woman who has to take care of the sick when they're at home. So for them to go out, the female agents who go out and convince somebody to buy it was much, much easier. And naturally, they'll convince the women first.

So we ended up finding out that a lot of the people coming into a portfolio once we brought in the women into the sector were mostly female households heads. A lot of them going to have a spouse to support them into this investment. They didn't even know what solar was. But then the female agents changed their lives. And as a result are the additional trickling effects happened. Most of the women also started doing productive activities, not just going to sleep at 5:00 anymore. They can be able to start doing other business activities, cooking fritters, for example, to sell the next day or investing in a tailor-making machine, making clothes as far into midnight if they can. So they started becoming more productive, and that's just how this whole ecosystem changed. Whereas my business partner on the other side used that money to catapult the business to the next level. We've now realized that both sides must work together. But I'm grateful that, at that point, that I was able to access finance and use it to support both the women agents but also my business.

[Joan Larrea]

So that is a role for catalytic money is to take a chance when the perceived risks are very high. But I do want to emphasize again that this is a company operating totally commercially today and an incredibly important part of the electricity generation of your country. And it also seems to have taken not just financing, but the “aha” moment of the telephone issue. Maybe, if we have time, we'll come back to what are the tools, what are the instruments, what are the ways to reach small companies that maybe the rest of us wouldn't think of. So thank you very much. I think it's a really powerful story.

I want to turn to Christine Ntim secondly. And my understanding of your company, correct me, is that you're the first digital talent career accelerator platform. And one of the things you do is run tech summits where you're connecting global players in the tech world with the young talent in places that have this resource in abundance such as the very fast-growing economies and populations of Africa. So I'm interested if you could describe the power of an ecosystem approach to entrepreneurship and especially for women, if you could touch on that as well.

[Christine Souffrant Ntim]

Yeah, absolutely. I think when we first started the Global Startup Ecosystem, we realized, at least for me personally, I'm a founder who had challenges as a female entrepreneur. And I realized if we're going to solve issues that female entrepreneurs face, we need to definitely be part of the solution providers. And so in building my business, many female entrepreneurs get stressed to you that it's hard to find the right investors, hard to find the right partners, hard to find the right customers, clients. It's an entire ecosystem that builds and scales a business. So why don't we facilitate that ecosystem for them from a female perspective? I remember back in 2017, we launched a program in Haiti because from my accent, obviously I'm American, but I'm actually Haitian-American. I'm a proud Haitian. And when you look at a place like Haiti, despite the narrative that people have of the country, it has probably the most vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurs on this planet. I can't stress that enough.

And that's the constant narrative that we're seeing across the Caribbean, across Africa, and across emerging markets around the world. So in 2017, I said like, "What would happen if we invited stakeholders to put their money where their mouth is? Come to Haiti, right? If you're an investor looking for entrepreneurs, come here. If you're a partner looking for opportunities, come here." And I remember that conversation started with just us assuming that we probably would attack maybe a hundred people in a room with us like this. It accelerated to 83 million social media views from around the world. The president of Haiti spoke at the events. We had celebrities from around the world come to this country for the first time flying in helicopters. And for the first time, the word Haiti and tech just exploded. If you Googled Haiti on that day, you did not see images or concept around poverty. You saw images of people at this tech summit.

And that's what started the Global Startup Ecosystem in many ways because we realized that if this is the narrative shift that we're doing in Haiti, as me as a female entrepreneur doing this within my home country, what does that mean in other countries around the world who have the same problem? So we went to Ghana, then we went to Nigeria, then we went to Kenya, then we went to Dubai, and we kept going. And now seven years later, we not only have close to 1.2 million entrepreneurs in our database and growing. We have launched tech summits in over 40 different countries around the world. And we have worked with heads of states and ministries of education, transportation, pretty much real stakeholders around the world about how do we leverage tech to empower entrepreneurs and build better visibility for entrepreneurs trying to get resources. Because many of you in the room could attest to the fact that it's not about what you know, it's about who you know.

And a lot of female entrepreneurs, we talk about their inability to get access to opportunity. There's not enough visibility who the players they need to connect to. So through these text summits, this is the person that you need to connect with. These are the players that you need to connect. It changes their ability to scale and be able to promote their businesses from a perspective of opportunity and not just impact. We stressed this during the conversation that helping female entrepreneurs is not a charity case. You're missing out on a business opportunity when you don't invest in women, period. End of discussion.

And so that's the conversation that we've had at these tech summits. And one thing that I will say when it comes to building ecosystems from scratch, a lot of people talk about barriers to success for women. I always challenge people and say, "If you see this as an error or an issue from a country level, from a global level, let's check your household first. Everyone in this room, you could raise your hand and you could get attest to this. How many of you have mothers, sisters, daughters? Raise your hand if you have one of those different females in your household. Right?

So at the end of the day, if your household is in order, imagine that at scale. That's the shift that we have when we have a conversation. And now tech is the heart of that because we all have a phone, we all connect digitally. We have a joke in our company where we say, "If you don't have access to Wi-Fi, you don't have access to connectivity, you're pretty much out of a global opportunity." And that's the conversations that we have at the heart of our company. And now looking back at how far we've come just from a small conversation in Haiti to where it is today, I am completely amazed at the capacity that women have. And I always say that it's not about our capacity. I don't think female entrepreneurs ever had a capacity problem. It's really a social conscious problem. Everyone else needs to catch up with us as female entrepreneurs. We've been trying to get people to know that it's past due time. So that's [inaudible].

[Joan Larrea]

Thank you both. I'm going to circle back to Claudia and give her the last word. So Bancóldex has taken two loans backed by sovereign non-honoring guarantees from MIGA. And in each case, as I understand, it has provided liquidity to financial institutions supporting small and medium enterprises or micro small and medium enterprises. And that activity has had a very big gender element to it by virtue of MIGA supporting and by virtue of your own interest. So you've heard these two stories. How do you think that the banking sector can reach more stories like this, can be more inclusive? As a banker who has had international development bank support, what do you think the banking sector should be doing to reach more people like Christine and like Maya who are powerhouses, right? They're economic powerhouses.

[Claudia María González Arteaga’s Interpreter]

These stories that we've heard today. Well, I think many of those in Colombia, Lacy Cruz who was in the video who got resources to be able to go forward with her business. I think there are four important things. First, digitalization and technology. I think that that is the foundation for access. The second is training, training, technical assistance. And I think that is lacking in many places in Colombia. And also the differentiation. Anshula spoke about processes that were different to access, loans, think about women's circumstances. And I think that really can make a difference to allow for access to loans under conditions that are favorable for women.

[Joan Larrea]

So digitalization to reach people, training and technical assistance to even out the field, and different processes actually for reaching out to your clients and assessing them. I think those are really important lessons for all of us. I think we do have to wrap up. If anybody would like to make any last comments, please, maybe each of you, if you want to make one more recommendation to the field, if you will. Christine.

[Christine Souffrant Ntim]

I think the last recommendation I would say just capitalizing on what's in our own home. I'll even say that one of the biggest shifts I think women have experienced is even balancing family and careers. I myself just had a baby boy just six and a half weeks ago, and I could attest to the fact that I'm still building and growing as a mom, but also as an entrepreneur that the best thing that you could do to support entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs, your household. Start there. If you could empower the women in your ecosystem there, it expands on a global scale. Don't forget the power that you have with the people that you love around you every day.

[Mohamed Gouled]

I think I would like to second that. I think ultimately it is the opportunities that we give. And to me, the business case frankly is an excuse. It's very clear. And the one thing that though, when it comes to technology and digitalization, I worry about is to make, to be aware of that how that evolves. We talk about the artificial intelligence and how that can be unbiased when it comes to providing, for example, a loan to a man or a woman. We have to be careful that we actually don't reflect our own biases into technology going forward. It inherits this from human beings, but that can make a huge difference for women.

[Joan Larrea]

I think it's a good caution and a very good tool as well. Maya, last thought.

[Maya Khonje-Stewart]

Thank you, Joan. I think for me, I'd like to reiterate the fact that when it comes to access to finance, I believe, and from my experience, when you give a man a loan, they build their house, they make it in order. When you give a woman a loan, they build a community. This is from experience I've seen even from the agents that I've mentioned. The men who are earning money on a daily basis from commissions will tend to invest in themselves. They'll buy themselves a beautiful motorbike. They'll build themselves a house. Whereas the woman will go out and say, "Okay. I'm going to pay school fees for my children. I'll also pay school fees for my sister's children. I'll also set up different shops because I want to empower my sister and give her a job as well. I also want to build my mother a house. And on top of that, I want to build the church as well."

So the woman invests in community, whereas a man normally invests in themselves. This is not in a bad way to the gentleman here, of course. But I believe if we put in a lot more money into the women, the whole economy will grow simultaneously because they don't think about themselves. They think about everybody around them. Thank you.

[Mohamed Gouled]

It's a multiplier?

[Maya Khonje-Stewart]

Yes, it's a multiplier.

[Junaid Kamal Ahmad]

You know I...

[Joan Larrea]

[inaudible]

[Junaid Kamal Ahmad]

What can I say, right?

[Joan Larrea]

Don't go there.

[Junaid Kamal Ahmad]

But I do want to want to remember someone if you will allow me. We stand on the shoulders of a lot of people. I stand on my grandmother's shoulder, my mother's mother. She was 13 years old when she got married. I'm the eldest grandchild. When I understood what it meant that she got married at 13 was a very deep moment for me. But what was the most amazing story of my grandmother is she had seven daughters and three sons. Somehow this 13-year-old girl decided that her seven daughters would not get married until they had a master's in a science subject. And every one of them, every one of them, not only had a master's in a science subject, two of them were the first PhD women from Bangladesh in Dhaka University in physics. So I share your point that if you don't look into your own house, it is not going to be possible to change the world. And I want to today recognize that I stand on the shoulders of my grandmother.

[Joan Larrea]

What was her name?

[Junaid Kamal Ahmad]

[inaudible]

[Joan Larrea]

Thank you.

[Junaid Kamal Ahmad]

Thank you.

[Joan Larrea]

Claudia, would you like to make any last comment? I think your story stands out, but any last comment for us?

[Claudia María González Arteaga’s Interpreter]

Yes. I would like to add something. Any resources that fall into women's hands will be well-used. And with very small amounts, women can really reach incredible heights. I think that it's a commitment that we all need to have in the development bank sector, is to give these small amounts to change societies, change families, change communities. Thank you.

[Joan Larrea]

Thank you. Well, as I said at the start, I was given the keys to a sports car. We've taken a very short trip around the block. I have to park it now. Thank you all very much for being the amazing people you are. I will pass it back now to Christophe with my thanks.

[Christophe Vauthier]

Thank you to our panelists. Thank you, Claudia, Maya, Christine, Junaid, Mohamed, and Joan. I think this was a very, very inspiring discussion on our topics of innovation, female entrepreneurship, and more.

So at this juncture, that concludes our formal program for the evening. We want to thank you all of you who joined us here in person at Decatur House and also online. And for those of you here in person, we would like to invite all of you to celebrate our awardee, Claudia, and join us for reception upstairs in celebration of Claudia's achievements and incredible work in furthering equality. So if you can please go through the patio, it's upstairs, and we look forward to continuing the discussion. Thank you so much.

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