Cairo, Egypt, May 19, 2005—The International
Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, today
partnered with the Egyptian Business Women Association to conduct a marketing
and management workshop in Cairo for 50 local women entrepreneurs. The
event is the first step in a larger IFC program to strengthen women-owned
businesses in Egypt and throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
Research shows that Egyptian women have far more difficulty accessing markets,
finance, and key business resources then their male counterparts. Business
environment constraints also affect them more severely, with gender-related
barriers tending to lock their businesses into the less productive informal
sector. As a result, women-owned enterprises are generally fewer, smaller,
and less competitive than male-owned firms.
In response, IFC has introduced the “Women Get the Business Edge” training
program in the Middle East and North Africa, which will provide modules
on understanding customers and targeting key markets. These have been adapted
from Business Edge, a far-reaching management training initiative for small
and medium enterprises that is provided through IFC’s global network of
technical assistance facilities. Over the next two years, the program intends
to provide thousands of women business owners and managers and their employees
with relevant and affordable business development solutions throughout
The program aims to ensure that women entrepreneurs will have access to
the support they need to compete in the mainstream business world.
The management training course is one of several initiatives to support
the growth of women-owned and operated enterprises that IFC plans to promote
in coming months under its regional Gender Entrepreneurship Markets program.
It will be delivered by the Private Enterprise Partnership for Middle East
and North Africa (PEP-MENA), IFC’s regional technical assistance facility,
which operates with donor funding from the Islamic Development Bank, Japan,
Kuwait, the Netherlands, and the United States.
“Because women suffer from a lack of access to business information, they
unfortunately have not yet benefited from the assistance we have been offering
to the private sector. So we feel it is important to design customized
programs for them,” said Jesper Kjaer, General Manager of IFC PEP-MENA.
“We cannot afford to have half the population remain in the background,
given the region’s urgent challenges to increase employment and productivity.”
Naderah Chamlou, the World Bank’s gender
coordinator for the region, argues that women’s economic empowerment will
benefit society at large: “With unemployment on the rise, there is a need
for women to work, which means casting aside the traditional image of staying
at home. Today, in many countries of the Middle East, the majority of university
students are women,” she added. “There is tremendous human capital potential
within the female population. Women are more aware of their capabilities
and of the increasing need to contribute financially to the well-being
of their families.”
The mission of IFC (www.ifc.org)
is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries,
helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. IFC finances private
sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international
financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability,
and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.
From its founding in 1956 through FY04, IFC has committed more than $44
billion of its own funds and arranged $23 billion in syndications for 3,143
companies in 140 developing countries. IFC’s worldwide committed portfolio
as of FY04 was $17.9 billion for its own account and $5.5 billion held
for participants in loan syndications.