‘My mother told me to dare.’ Inspiring stories from high-level African Development Bank women’s summit

Nafissa Hamidou Abdoulaye has been praised far and wide for her ground-breaking work in agriculture, but securing financing has been an uphill battle. That was until now.

The African Development Bank has decided to jump in and support Abdoulaye, who has for the past five years self-financed her animal feed company Salma, which employs 10 people.

Abdoulaye’s story inspired African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina after she spoke at the high-level regional summit of the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, on April 17, 2019.

The summit was the first regional gathering of the newly formed We-Fi, and was called to discuss how women-owned SMEs can overcome barriers to financing.

The event, co-hosted by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, heard many accounts of how women had struggled to make headway as entrepreneurs.

Abdoulaye spoke about how she had been motivated by her mother, a housewife who had raised her and her four siblings as a single parent.  “She told me to dare, don’t just be a mother in the household. Be a woman who in just a few years will be known,” Abdoulaye said.

In 2014, she founded Salma after noticing the vast quantities amounts of animal feed being imported into her country, Niger. Salma used local ingredients to create her feed.

Since then, Abdoulaye has won plaudits for her venture, including being named one of the Francophonie 35 people under 35 to watch in West Africa.

Patricia Zoundi, the founder of Quick Cash and Canaanland  also shared her story at the We-Fi summit.. Quick Cash is a mobile service that allows people in rural areas to transfer money without an internet connection. Canaanland offers a range of services to rural people, such as training and helping them gain access to markets.

Shortly after the two women spoke, Adesina took to the stage and announced that the Bank would invest in Zandou and Abdoulaye’s businesses.

Adesina said Africa’s economy could only thrive once women were brought on board.

“When women win, Africa wins. Truth be told, women run Africa,” Adesina told delegates.

Other major announcements at the We-Fi Summit included a US $2 million facility for 300 cocoa cooperatives in Cote d’Ivoire, by Mars, Nestle, Hershey and other multinationals, along with USAID and the World Cocoa Foundation. A further 500 associations will also be given access to the formal financing market.

The announcement was made by Ivanka Trump, senior advisor to US President Donald Trump, who had earlier visited a successful cocoa farm run by an association made up women outside Abidjan.

“This was a perfect example of women championing women, women supporting women … This is what happens when women work together, but you need the role models, because, unless you see it, you can’t believe it’s possible,” Trump said.

World Bank president Kristalina Georgieva said her institution had developed innovative tools to help women overcome barriers to financing.

“With gender equality, the wealth of our planet could be $164 trillion greater. So we owe it to everyone to remove the barriers that women face,” she said.

Bandar Hajjar, president of the Islamic Development Bank, said We-Fi was an opportunity for his bank to increase its focus on women-led SMEs under its Business Resilience Assistance for the Value-Adding Enterprises (BRAVE) programme.

“Through the grant provided under We-Fi, the Islamic Development Bank targets the specific barriers women enterprises are facing to enhance their resilience in fragile contexts as potential engines for innovation, employment and sustainable inclusive growth,” Hajjar said.

We-Fi is a US$345 million fund that seeks to promote financing for women. It is a collaborative partnership among 14 governments, eight implementing partners, multilateral development banks, and other public and private sector stakeholders.

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