Freetown, Sierra Leone, March 13, 2015 –
A study released today by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, recommends
a number of steps government, financial institutions, development organizations,
and others should make to help women entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone and
other countries overcome the challenges they face, and realize their full
The National Study on Women’s Access to Financing in Sierra Leone
was commissioned by IFC, the African Foundation for Development, and the
Cherie Blair Foundation for Women as a tool to gain insight into the legal,
social, and financial obstacles women confront when launching or growing
a business. It was published during the week of International Women’s
Among its many recommendations, the study suggests that Sierra Leone’s
government should appoint a national champion for women-owned smaller businesses;
that banks should create products specifically designed for women and provide
flexible and longer repayment periods on loans; and that women should be
given more business training opportunities, and have a greater voice in
Mary Agboli, IFC Resident Representative in Sierra Leone, said, “Ending
extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity can only be achieved --
in Sierra Leone and globally -- by advancing women’s participation in
the private sector and giving them the tools and support they need to succeed.
IFC is committed to gender equality in the workplace and in all places
and will use the findings of this study to help guide our future support
for women in business.”
Sevi Simavi, Chief Executive Officer of the Cherie Blair Foundation for
Women, said, “The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women seeks to empower women
entrepreneurs in developing and emerging economies around the world. Increasing
the number of women in profitable and sustainable businesses in Sierra
Leone will generate huge social and economic benefits, strengthening both
local communities and the country as a whole.”
The study was conducted across nine districts in Sierra Leone, and interviewed
222 women engaged in various types of businesses. About seventy percent
of economically active women in the country work in or for micro or smaller
businesses, yet most struggle to access the training and financing products
they need to grow, including saving, credit, leasing, and pension facilities.
In Sierra Leone – as in most other countries across sub Saharan Africa
-- evidence points to the great difficulties women face in accessing even
the most basic financial services, with far-reaching implications for their
own economic empowerment and the overall health of the national economy.
The study was funded and supported by IFC’s Conflict Affected States in
Africa Initiative (CASA), which is helping Sierra Leone and eight other
countries recovering from conflict rebuild their private sectors and create
jobs and opportunities. CASA is supported by donor partners Ireland, the
Netherlands, and Norway.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development
institution focused exclusively on the private sector. Working with private
enterprises in about 100 countries, we use our capital, expertise, and
influence to help eliminate extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity.
In FY14, we provided more than $22 billion in financing to improve lives
in developing countries and tackle the most urgent challenges of development.
For more information, visit www.ifc.org.