Accessing finance to fund business ventures has long been an issue across the Caribbean, especially for women. Now that the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) have joined forces to tackle this challenge, sourcing funds could become easier for women-owned businesses in the Region.
The two organisations on Monday, February 19, signed an agreement to collaborate on a new programme, Women Empowered through Export (WE-Xport), to support capacity-building for women-owned businesses to facilitate their access to finance. A key component of the new initiative to be launched in March 2018 by Caribbean Export will be “Access to Finance”, and will include a two-day workshop that aims to increase participants’ understanding of the requirements of financial institutions and how best to meet them. Ongoing technical assistance through regional business support organisations will also be available to participating companies through the CDB-funded component.
“CDB recognises the importance of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises as contributors to economic growth and development in our Region. We welcome the opportunity to partner with Caribbean Export to give women-owned businesses the support they need to gain better access to financing. We view WE-Xport as another opportunity for the Bank to directly advance women’s entrepreneurship, and help women business owners overcome one of the greatest obstacles they face when looking to grow their businesses—unlocking financing,” said Daniel Best, Director of Projects, CDB.
During his statement at the signing of the agreement, Best noted that between 2013 and 2017, CDB provided lines of credit to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) totalling approximately USD18 million and benefitting 974 MSMEs across the Region. The Bank’s support for interventions targeting women business owners builds on research it commissioned in 2016, which identified gender disparities in access to credit across the Region. As part of its response, the Bank is also collaborating with regional development financial institutions to develop gender policies.
Pamela Coke Hamilton, Executive Director, Caribbean Export, expressed her gratitude to CDB for catching the vision of WE-Xport during the project’s early stages and partnering on the critical access-to-finance pillar.
“As we brainstormed ways of supporting women-owned businesses, we recognized that we needed to address the constraints they face in applying for funding. The project which we are collaborating on with the CDB will seek to increase the capacity of women entrepreneurs to better prepare proposals to meet the requirements of the financial institutions,” she said. “Through your support we will be able to provide training and technical assistance (TA) to 10 women-owned MSMEs and 10 Business Support Organisations (BSOs).”
Caribbean Export works closely with the European Union to implement a range of activities that support the development of the region’s private sector. Their cooperation for the empowerment of women via WE-Xport is poised to be a game changer for women who participate in the upcoming programme. WE-Xport aims to strengthen and support women-owned enterprises to increase their access to finance, improve and build their capacity as entrepreneurs, increase access to markets (including networking and being integrated to value chains) and advocate on issues and public policies that negatively affect female entrepreneurs.