January 28, 2020
Financial service providers boost women’s careers and entrepreneurship
Finnfund invests 10 million euros in the Advans Group, an international microfinance group, and 10 million US dollars in Bank of Georgia, leading universal bank in Georgia. Both investments strengthen women’s financial and economic position, and qualify for the 2X Challenge, a G7 initiative to mobilise financing for women’s empowerment. Since 2018, the 2X Challenge aims at increasing access to finance for women-owned, women-led and women-supporting enterprises in developing and emerging countries.
Bank of Georgia and Advans not only support women as entrepreneurs through microfinance opportunities but are also committed to providing career opportunities for women all the way through senior management level.
Advans empowers women in Asia and Africa
Advans currently serves over 1 million clients with a staff of close to 7,500 employees in nine African and Asian countries; Cambodia, Cameroon, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tunisia and Myanmar.
Microfinance is a typical channel for women to gain access to finance. For Advans, the work on gender balance goes beyond clients: the company is committed to recruiting and promoting women on an equal basis to men. Advans has a code of ethics which is implemented in each affiliate and local staff is trained on what is means in practice, including a strong message of non-tolerance towards sexual harassment.
”Four of the 9 Advans countries (Pakistan, DRC, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire) rank in the bottom 20 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index”, says Finnfund’s Associate Director Antti Urvas. “That’s why the work they are doing in promoting a gender positive working culture is so remarkable. For example, in Cote d’Ivoire, 30% of their board members, 46 % of senior managers and 57 % of employees are women.”
In some countries, Advans already provides their clients with financial literacy training and is committed to organising environmental and social awareness training for both the credit officers and clients.
Bank of Georgia finances rural SMEs
With more than 2.5 million customers, Bank of Georgia is Georgia’s second largest universal bank by total assets, loans and deposits. It provides loans and services for microentrepreneurs as well as small and medium-sized enterprises, which is vital for developing the Georgian economy and helps reducing inequalities in the country.
”As the leading MSME banking services provider, they have a significant impact on reaching rural, self-employed part of the population – out of which many are female”, says Urvas. “Their focus on women shows in their own workforce as well: currently, 55% of their management and 68% of employees are female.”
Bank of Georgia also has special training programmes for women, one year of free banking service for women start-ups, sponsorship of networking events and initiatives to encourage women to move to business.
Finnfund’s investment is part of a syndicated loan agreement with several lenders, all of which emphasize the importance of supporting Bank of Georgia to work towards more sustainable banking. “Bank of Georgia is very committed to all of our environmental and social development plans”, says Urvas. “One of the first steps is to undertake a gap analysis between the IFC Performance Standards and national legislation, in order to understand key gaps.”
Associate Director Antti Urvas, antti.urvas (a) finnfund.fi, tel +358 45 113 0547
What is the 2X Challenge?
The “2X Challenge” calls for the G7 and other DFIs to join together to collectively mobilize $3 billion in commitments that provide women in developing country markets with improved access to leadership opportunities, quality employment, finance, enterprise support and products and services that enhance economic participation and access. Finnfund joined the initiative in May 2019.