AfDB funds social networking platform for African women

21 Jul 2016, 12:00 am
Financial Nigeria


The social media platform will be available in 36 countries and accessible via mobile phones.

An innovative social media platform for Sub-Saharan African women entrepreneurs to exchange ideas on how to start, grow and scale their businesses has won a $12.4 million grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB).

According to Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, AfDB's Special Envoy on Gender, the digital marketplace will connect business women and encourage peer-to-peer learning, mentoring, as well as information and knowledge-sharing. The social media platform, called "50 million Women Speak," will be available in 36 countries and accessible via mobile phones.

The Bank said in Sub-Saharan Africa, the financing gap for women is estimated at over $20 billion and is likely to be more acute among younger women. Gender-specific barriers such as lower levels of education and business training, weak property rights as well as cultural barriers discourage women from thriving as entrepreneurs. As such, women experience challenges accessing financial and non-financial services which affect the growth of their businesses.

"(50 million Women Speak) Platform users will learn about their rights and the way to obtain financial support," said Salieu Jack, Chief ICT Engineer and Project's Team Leader at the AfDB.

AfDB also said the project will be implemented in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regions within a period of three years starting from 2017. The Bank said the number of monthly platform users could reach 50,000 women in 2022.

The AfDB estimates that the rate of women entrepreneurs with access to banking loans could jump from 4 percent to 10 percent by 2022, buoyed by the social networking platform.  And by developing their businesses, the women entrepreneurs are expected to create 10 percent more jobs in their countries.

The launch of the regional platform will be coordinated with the creation of Country Teams which will include Regional Economic Communities (RECs) specialized institutions for content gathering and dissemination, publicity, outreach, and advocacy, targeting women entrepreneurs in their respective member states.

Funding for the "50 Million Women Speak" project was approved by the Bank on July 15, according to a statement released this week. AfDB said the project will form part of the Innovation Lab, one of the Pillars of the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) programme that was launched by the AfDB President at the Annual Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia in May 2016.  

The platform will also provide an opportunity to capture important statistics on financial inclusion in Africa. Its related statistical database should be able to provide sound and accurate data both on SMEs led by women and Financial Institutions products by country. It will contribute to generating and sharing knowledge on women's access to financial and non-financial services in regional member countries.