ADB gets $20m grant to support women SMEs in Vietnam, Pacific

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has received $20.19 million from the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) to support women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (WSMEs) in Vietnam and the Pacific.

The grant will finance the Women Accelerating Vibrant Enterprises in Southeast Asia and the Pacific (WAVES) programme, ADB said in a statement, adding that about 5,000 WSMEs from Vietnam and the Pacific will benefit from WAVES.

This is the second time ADB has received the financing package from We-Fi, an initiative by the World Bank to mobilize more than $1 billion to help women entrepreneurs access debt, equity, venture capital and other products.

“Women’s businesses have a crucial role to play in the Asia and Pacific region’s efforts to achieve inclusive and sustainable development, but social and economic barriers will have to be addressed for women to realize this potential,” said ADB social development specialist Keiko Nowacka.

Women-led businesses, which account for about 60 per cent of all micro, small, and medium-sized companies in Asia and the Pacific, are still facing capital constraints and limited access to business training and targeted government support.

The WAVES programme will address these constraints by focusing on the three areas of WSMEs’ development – access to finance, capacity development and enabling environment, ADB said.

Particularly, WAVES will provide innovative financial approaches including performance-based pricing in Vietnam and the first gender bond in the Pacific.

“This is important given that Asia and the Pacific has one of the largest global SME financing gaps, with 59 per cent of the gap attributed to credit constraints faced by WSMEs,” the region’s development bank said.

In Vietnam alone, the gender financing gap is estimated at $1.19 billion, according to the International Finance Corporation, the financial lending arm of the World Bank.

The WAVES programme will also provide business acceleration and networking opportunities to help with sustainable expansion of businesses, besides strengthening data on WSMEs in order to better inform policies and interventions.

ADB, having committed $21.6 billion new loans and grants in 2018, said it expected 75 per cent of its projects will promote gender equality by 2030.