Washington, D.C., March 8, 2011—IFC,
a member of the World Bank Group, announced today that its Village Phone
program has helped provide credit to nearly 6,000 women and trained close
to 10,000 to set up phone service businesses in Madagascar, Malawi, and
Nigeria, increasing the economic participation of women in some of Africa’s
most rural communities.
On the centennial of International Women’s Day, Cherie Blair, Founder
of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, participated as special guest
speaker at a ceremony at IFC’s headquarters, where the program received
the Annual IFC CEO Gender Award for outstanding achievement in promoting
women in business. The ceremony was attended by representatives from governments,
women’s organizations, and the media.
“IFC is doing a remarkable job by increasing access to finance for women
entrepreneurs, reducing gender-based barriers in the investment climate,
and improving sustainability in the private sector,” said Blair.
IFC's Village Phone Program links large telecom operators with African
entrepreneurs who sell airtime on the companies' networks to people in
their local communities. The relationship brings rural villagers access
to telephone services, local entrepreneurs the means to build an income-generating
business, and participating telecoms companies a way to expand their reach.
IFC launched the program in Nigeria in 2007, and expanded it to Madagascar
and Malawi the following year.
“The IFC CEO Gender Award was created four years ago to underscore
the priority IFC places on creating opportunities for women in its pursuit
of sustainable development. Village Phone’s success reaching women entrepreneurs
illustrates the central role that women play in promoting sustainable economic
growth,” said Lars Thunell, IFC Executive Vice President and CEO.
Extending benefits of mobile phone ownership to more women can advance
a host of social and economic goals, according to a report by the Cherie
Blair Foundation and the GSMA, which represents the interests of the worldwide
mobile communications industry. Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity,
found that bringing mobile-phone penetration among women on par with penetration
among men could enable mobile operators globally to collectively earn $13
billion additional revenue a year.
IFC recognizes that sustainable economic growth is not possible without
full participation of women. Since 2006, IFC has partnered with 14 financial
institutions to increase access to finance for women entrepreneurs. It
has helped increase capital for over 2,000 women entrepreneurs, trained
over 2,500 women in business skills, and facilitated over 6,000 women to
open new accounts with financial institutions. IFC has also helped enact
reforms to support women's participation in the private sector in more
than a dozen countries.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development
institution focused on the private sector in developing countries. We create
opportunity for people to escape poverty and improve their lives. We do
so by providing financing to help businesses employ more people and supply
essential services, by mobilizing capital from others, and by delivering
advisory services to ensure sustainable development. In a time of global
economic uncertainty, our new investments climbed to a record $18 billion
in fiscal 2010. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.
About the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women helps women entrepreneurs to build
businesses by offering access to technology, networks, finance and business
development support. Programs are in Africa, South Asia and the Middle
East, where there is potential for women in business to become self-sustaining
in the longer term. By supporting women entrepreneurs, the foundation
not only helps the women themselves to improve their quality of life, but
also their families, communities and economies who benefit from their success.
For more information, visit www.cherieblairfoundation.org.