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Stanbic Bank Zambia partners UN on African Women Leadership Fund

Stanbic Bank Zambia has partnered with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) to launch the African Women Leadership Fund (AWLF), which will provide capital to both first time and experienced fund managers.

This has been done in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals 5 (Gender Equality) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and African Union Agenda 2063.

The ground-breaking initiative was formally signed in Addis Ababa between the Standard Bank Group – of which Stanbic Bank Zambia is a member – and UNECA, and is expected to be transformational in breaking down structural barriers to inclusive investing in Africa.

Stanbic Bank Head of Public Relations and Women’s Banking Chanda Chime Katongo said Stanbic Bank had always strived to unlock the immense capacity that women have to make meaningful economic and social contributions through inclusive financial services like Anakazi Banking.

She said: “At Stanbic, we have always been actively seeking to empower our female customers with greater access to financial resources and knowledge management so they can grow and excel at all levels. The launch of the African Women Leadership Fund is yet another demonstration of our commitment to this cause.
We will leverage our position as the largest bank in Zambia as well as our experiences from Anakazi Banking and the Business Trip of the Year – an initiative that seeks to connect Zambian businesswomen to international export markets – to make this fund work for Zambian women.”

She added that the Fund project has 2 phases. The Bank was now looking for Female Fund Managers in phase one who will be trained and mentored to run the fund. In phase 2 these fund managers will in turn identify female run business that they could invest in to grow.

Ms Katongo noted that it was gratifying to see African leaders as well as some world leaders throw their weight behind the fund through significant donations.

“It is refreshing to see African leaders putting women to the fore with regards to efforts to drive the continent’s economic growth by supporting a game-changing fund that invests in women fund managers and provides technical assistance,” she said.

Over $20 million was raised for the fund in February that has a current goal of $100 million. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda was instrumental in leading the way, pledging $500,000. Senegal’s President Macky Sall committed $500,000. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also pledged to contribute to the fund. The private sector participants pledged the rest.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada pledged $10 million to the African Union to boost gender parity. Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg pledged $8 million to AU initiatives. A portion of these resources will be earmarked for the women’s initiative.

Among the world leaders who witnessed the official launch of this innovative impact investment fund were UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres, African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde. Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was also in attendance, as were several former African heads of state.

“We are turning the tables and making women the decision-makers of investable money in Africa. We want women to be on the supply side of money, not only on the demand side,” said Dr Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ECA. A key goal of the fund is to empower women financial leaders who will drive economic growth, job creation, and create prosperity.

In Africa women-owned funds and businesses struggle due largely to lack of successful fundraising, insufficient exposure to systems and procedures, and lack of track records, among others. They also contend with gender-based social expectation, resistance to women in leadership roles and lack of a support network. The fund will empower Africa’s women by giving them access to financial resources and investment management expertise.

Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank Group, said  the fund aligns with the bank’s purpose to drive Africa’s growth and “presents an opportunity for Standard Bank to leverage our footprint and expertise on the continent, and the relevant experience of our asset management arms, Melville Douglas and STANLIB Multi-Managers, to build Africa’s economies. Africa is our home, we drive her growth”.

Women fund managers will receive a deployment of capital, and subsequently invest in majority female-owned businesses. Even though the fund is sector agnostic, priority sectors will be education, manufacturing, healthcare, clean energy and agriculture. Additionally, technical assistance for fund managers and entrepreneurs will be offered through the initiative. This ranges from building capacity, direct mentoring to leveraging technology in health and education.

Songwe emphasised “The goal here is to give women-led financial investment activities a huge injection of jet fuel to bear out the proven positive correlation between gender balance, higher financial returns and developmental impact.”

In his remarks, Secretary-General Gutteres said: “Power is not usually given, it must be taken.”
As the fund continues to grow, Stanbic Bank Zambia is urging the local private sector to come on board and support this initiative to leverage the power of the ever-growing women’s market and create stronger business ties for a stronger economy.

Source: Langmead & Baker