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IFC-Backed Report Aims to Increase Access to Finance for Women-Owned Businesses

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 8, 2013—A new IFC-supported report finds that women business owners in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have a strong appetite for expansion and are poised to contribute economic growth but require greater access to capital.

Ready for Growth: Solutions to Increase Access to Finance for Women-Owned Business in the Middle East and North Africa surveyed 431 women business owners across eight economies in the region. Published in partnership with Vital Voices and the MENA Businesswomen’s Network, the report examines women business owners’ need for capital, information, and training to grow their businesses.

It advises key regional stakeholders to improve access to financing via tailored financial tools for women business owners. For instance, they are more interested in long-term capital than short-term capital, and often require supply chain and equity financing as well.

All women surveyed are members of the MENA Businesswomen’s Network (BWN), which reaches over 25,000 business owners and professionals. “This report clearly illustrates that if the public and private sectors align to provide increased access and tailored solutions, women business owners in the region are well positioned to enhance their contribution to economic growth,” said Alyse Nelson, President & CEO of Vital Voices. Shereen Allam, President of MENA BWN added, “The MENA BWN and its members are dedicated to making this change a reality rather than a dream.”

While 80 percent of respondents use personal checking accounts, just 18 percent have taken out a commercial bank loan, and only 10 percent have a line of credit for their business.

“This report fills a critical gap in our understanding of what women business owners know about available products and services offered by financial institutions,” said Mouayed Makhlouf, IFC Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “This survey data can provide banks in MENA with information to better serve the women’s market.”

Globally, women-owned firms represent between 31 percent and 38 percent of SMEs in emerging markets, and have unmet annual financial needs of nearly $300 billion. This market represents a legitimate business opportunity for lending institutions and a chance to make a broader positive impact by fostering economic growth and job creation.

About IFC
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. We help developing countries achieve sustainable growth by financing investment, mobilizing capital in international financial markets, and providing advisory services to businesses and governments. In FY12, our investments reached an all-time high of more than $20 billion, leveraging the power of the private sector to create jobs, spark innovation, and tackle the world’s most pressing development challenges. For more information, visit

About Vital Voices
Vital Voices Global Partnership identifies, invests in and brings visibility to extraordinary women around the world by unleashing their leadership potential to transform lives and accelerate peace and prosperity in their communities. Vital Voices’ international staff and team of over 1,000 partners, pro bono experts and leaders, including senior government, corporate and NGO executives, have trained and mentored more than 12,000 emerging women leaders from over 144 countries in Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East since 1997. These women have returned home to train and mentor more than 500,000 additional women and girls in their communities. Learn more at

About MENA Businesswomen’s Network
Incorporated in 2010, the MENA Businesswomen’s Network (MENA BWN) represents over 4,000 individual members in organizations in 10 countries across North Africa, the Levant and the Gulf. Their mission is to promote the advancement of women, help women business owners and entrepreneurs from across the region grow more successful businesses and support the next generation of women in business, within the larger goal of supporting economic and professional growth. The Network represents a unified voice for women in the MENA region committed to progress through economic development.
Supported, in part, by Vital Voices Global Partnership, MENA BWN has reached over 20,000 women and
men in targeted programs, workshops and training that have created over 500 new businesses, expanded business-to-business connections and increased company revenue. Learn more at

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