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IFC Program Supports Women Entrepreneurs in Egypt


In Washington
Rob Wright

Phone: +1(202) 473 7997

Fax: +1(202) 974 4384

Email:
rwright@ifc.org

In Cairo

Khetsiwe Dlamini

Phone: +01(20)10 510 7478

Fax: +01(202) 579 6447

Email:
kdlamini@ifc.org


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 region.


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.