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Investing in Digital Economy Companies Lead by Women and Women in Ecommerce

The COVID crisis has turned a glaring spotlight on the challenges facing women in Africa. This Newsletter has reported previously on the funding gap for women-owned businesses in Africa and women-led funds are currently estimated at $42bn, in often-overlooked sectors, and in industries where women are economically active. As governments, civil society organisations, international agencies, and the private sector look for ways to reduce the impact the pandemic has had across the continent, the time has come to identify solutions that will advance gender equality, and women’s empowerment, while working towards economic and social recovery.

Gender Led Investing (GLI) is well-poised to bring more institutional capital into Africa and can assist in closing the funding gap for women-owned businesses, but only if investors follow a Gender Led Investment approach during their investment decision-making process. While the strategy might seem obvious – the flows of institutional capital at scale, into these businesses are still lacking today.  The U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), together with Standard Bank, has launched the African Women Impact Fund (AWIF) which has the target of raising a billion dollars over 10 years, to create a sustainable investment platform for women-led funds.

Meanwhile, women in Africa are using online platforms as a critical source of income. Africa’s largest ecommerce company, Jumia recently announced that 51% of the vendors on its platforms are women and that they represented 33% of the total value of merchandise sold between 2019 and 2020. The International Finance Corporation (a part of the World Bank) also reports that women dominate the fashion category of African ecommerce. Research shows there are more women-owned businesses on social media than men in several African countries. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says that women make up 4 out of every 10 workers online and on web-based platforms globally.

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