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GWFD 2020: New solutions needed to overcome barriers facing women entrepreneurs, according to IFC

GWFD 2020: New solutions needed to overcome barriers facing women entrepreneurs, according to IFC
  • Solve X, an initiative designed to help women access seed funding through accelerator programs, has been launched at Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020
  • Women entrepreneurs from across the MENA region gain insights from investors and champions at We-Fi MENA Regional Summit

Sérgio Pimento: “Beyond finance, women need market access to sell their goods and services. Corporations can help by making their supply chains more inclusive.”

Dina El Shenoufy:Strong conviction, perseverance, and tenacity, are common traits in successful entrepreneurs.”

Daniele Henkel: “Never forget the impossible can become possible.”

Dubai, UAE, 16 February 2020: Sérgio Pimento, Vice-President for Africa and Middle East of the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), reminded attendees at Global Women’s Forum Dubai (GWFD) 2020 that globally, countries are losing USD 160 trillion in wealth, simply due to the gender pay gap. 

“It’s hard for women to grow or sustain businesses in the absence of capital,” said Pimento. He continued by saying that for women to thrive, they must overcome barriers like financing, human development gaps and societal norms. While women make up 50-70 per cent of micro entrepreneurs, he said the ratio drops significantly to 20-30 per cent in small and medium-sized enterprises. 

Pimento’s keynote session was part of the first We-Fi MENA Regional Summit, which aims to spur action that will improve access for entrepreneurs from the region’s emerging economies. The Summit is co-organised by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) and Dubai Women Establishment (DWE), the organiser of GWFD 2020.

“Beyond finance, women need market access to sell their goods and services. Corporations can help by making their supply chains more inclusive,” said Pimento. 

He also announced the launch of Scale X, an IFC initiative that will reward programs for helping women to raise their first investment. It has been launched in light of the fact that while the gender balance is in place for participants of accelerator programs, only 11 per cent of entrepreneurs that obtain seed funding are women. 

Pimento was followed on stage by Dina El Shenoufy, who represented the perspectives of investors in her capacity as Chief Investment Officer of Flat6Labs in Egypt. She shared three success stories driven by women entrepreneurs, including a Tunisian marketplace where over 400,000 users can trade or sell wardrobe items, a medicine delivery app, and a furniture business that uses recycled material and trains artisans to use traditional methods.  “All these women are different, but in some things they are the same: they all have strong conviction, perseverance, and tenacity,” said El Shenoufy.

Daniele Henkel, businesswoman and We-Fi Leadership Champion, became visibly emotional as she shared sad details of her childhood with the audience, and paid tribute to her mother and ‘true inspiration’. After she emigrated with her children from North Africa to Canada, she worked on an idea to bring the hammam beauty ritual to the Canadian market.

“When my journey began, I had refusals from everywhere. ‘No’ had become my new reality,” said Henkel. Eventually, persistence paid off and several exfoliation gloves later, success arrived. Today, she is proud that her children are working in the business. “Never forget the impossible can become possible. My story is proof of that.”

Global Women’s Forum Dubai is taking place at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai until February 17.

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