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FAO Regional Office for Africa

Promoting women’s access to rural and agricultural finance

FAO steers actions towards gender-sensitive financial solutions

Financial inclusion is a critical constraint to business growth and development for women entrepreneurs in rural areas. ©FAO/Petterik Wiggers

31 May 2019, Addis Ababa - Rural women still lack access to basic financial services such as savings, credit, insurance among many others, despite representing 50% of the labour force in agriculture in Africa.  Cognizant of this fact, FAO and key partners in East Africa held an expert meeting, focused on the financial inclusion of rural men and particularly women in agriculture, from May 28-29 2019.

In remarks made at the event, Chimimba David Phiri, Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Representative to the AU and UNECA, highlighted the key role of Women’s financial empowerment to the realization of Africa’s aspirations of Zero Hunger by 2025 and contributing to the attainment of the No Poverty, Zero Hunger and Gender Equality goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  He further added, “Research shows that when women are empowered, the majority of the household income goes into human development items which significantly increases the household expenditure on food.”

Rural women play an important role in all agri-food value chains, as workers, traders, entrepreneurs, and as owners of a substantial share of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the agriculture sector. Financial inclusion, referring to the capability of accessing a range of diverse and tailored financial services, is often one of the most critical constraints to business growth and development for women entrepreneurs in rural areas.

During the event, technical experts from key institutions, including development agencies, financial institutions and private sector stakeholders from Eastern African countries, shared their good practices and innovations in promoting gender-sensitive financial solutions. These include successful models and policies, products and services, and their design and delivery mechanisms including their replicability and scalability within the Eastern Africa region.

Aiming to identify and document innovative approaches in inclusive finance that target women in the agriculture sector, discussions were held on key issues such as the need for gender-sensitive design, and delivery of financial services, the role of new technologies and ICTs in driving women's financial inclusion and the challenges within existing policy environments in different countries.

Moving forward, better coordination, sharing of resources, documenting and disseminating good practices amongst actors were found to be of significant importance. Capacity development programmes targeting service providers was identified as a key step towards enhancing access to gender-sensitive financial services. Finally, another key recommendation was to hold similar dialogues at the policy level in order to promote an enabling policy framework for women’s access to rural and agricultural finance.

In addition, de-risking financing for agribusiness development for women, simplifying banking procedures, reducing transaction costs and broadening outreach to men and women with no or little formal education in rural areas would help the efforts to empower women and thus increase the wellbeing of their households.

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