Washington, D.C., / Abuja, Nigeria,
June 9, 2006 – The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private
sector arm of the World Bank Group, today signed an agreement to provide
a $15 million loan to Access Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading banks.
The loan will be used to extend lines of credit to women entrepreneurs.
With this loan, Access Bank Plc will be one of the first banks in Africa
to dedicate lines of credit to finance women-owned businesses. This is
the first major loan under IFC’s Gender Entrepreneurship Markets (GEM)
program, which is designed to leverage the potential of women in emerging
Declan Duff, IFC’s Vice President, Industries, said, “Women are a driving
force in the African economy, but their access to finance is still far
too small. This is why IFC is partnering with Access Bank, a dynamic and
innovative local bank, to bridge the gap. This initiative will increase
the contributions of women-owned businesses to the Nigerian economy and
can have a significant development impact.”
IFC’s funding will allow Access Bank to meet the financing needs of its
female clients, particularly those running small and medium enterprises.
At the same time, IFC’s Gender Entrepreneurship Markets program will provide
comprehensive assistance and training to enhance the bank’s ability to
reach out to the women’s market as well as provide business and management
training for women entrepreneurs.
Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Access Bank’s Managing Director, said, “Access
Bank has been searching for ways to address the needs of Nigeria’s women
entrepreneurs. We are very pleased to partner with IFC to launch a new
credit program that will enable us to increase our support to women-owned
businesses. We plan to demonstrate that supporting women entrepreneurs
in Nigeria is a commercially viable operation.”
Access Bank has recently become the first bank in Nigeria to be admitted
to the Global Banking Alliance for Women, a consortium of best practice
banks that leverage the women’s market for profit as well as social good.
Rachel Kyte, Director of IFC’s Environment and Social Department, said,
“In partnering with Access Bank to develop a credit line specifically
for women, we are working toward the international community’s third Millennium
Development Goal, which is to promote gender equality and empower women.”
IFC’s partnership with Access Bank is a pilot program that IFC aims to
replicate in other emerging markets. World Bank Group research has established
that women are more likely than men to contribute additional income to
household poverty reduction, that giving more women access to credit and
increasing their economic power is more likely to translate into improved
livelihoods for a wide cross-section of society, and that women entrepreneurs
are more likely to employ other women.
About Access Bank
Access Bank is a full-service commercial bank operating through a network
of over 80 branches and service outlets in all the major commercial centers
in Nigeria. Its principal business activities include retail banking,
commercial banking, corporate finance, trade finance, and foreign exchange
services. As of March 2006, it reported total assets and shareholders’
funds of $1.3 billion and $201 million, respectively.
The International Finance Corporation
created the GEM initiative in December 2004 to address the economic inefficiencies
and social inequities that arise when aspiring businesswomen cannot realize
their full potential because of gender inequality.
IFC is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and coordinates its activities
with the other institutions of the World Bank Group, but it is legally
and financially independent. Its 178 member countries provide its share
capital and collectively determine its policies.
The mission of IFC is to promote sustainable private sector investment
in developing and transition 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 FY05, IFC has committed more than $49 billion of its own
funds and arranged $24 billion in syndications for 3,319 companies in 140
developing countries. IFC’s worldwide committed portfolio as of FY05 was
$19.3 billion for its own account and $5.3 billion held for participants
in loan syndications. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.