The Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility (“WEOF”), a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women program and IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has now invested more than $1 billion in women entrepreneurs in emerging markets, delivering much-needed capital to small businesses and far surpassing the facility’s original goal of $600 million.
Women own or run more than a third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets, key providers of jobs and essential services. Yet a disproportionate number can’t access the capital they need to grow. The financing gap for women entrepreneurs is estimated to be nearly $1.5 trillion.
WEOF provides lines of credit that allow financial institutions in developing countries to reach more women-owned businesses. The facility also helps these institutions better understand the commercial viability of loans to underserved women entrepreneurs—and the role small businesses can play in their own growth strategies.
Designed to address the barriers that prevent financial institutions from deploying capital and women entrepreneurs from accessing it, WEOF was launched in 2014 with a $43 million investment from the Goldman Sachs Foundation and $100 million from IFC. The facility just exceeded $1 billion in investments in 26 financial intermediaries in 26 countries, including some of the world’s poorest and conflict-affected states. It has also funded 10 advisory projects in nine countries with total project value of $4.3 million. WEOF has already reached 50,000 women entrepreneurs through the financial institutions it invested in, with a goal of reaching 100,000 over 10 years.
“This partnership and creation of the WEOF was a natural extension of our 10,000 Women initiative, and directly informed by the feedback of our alumni who indicated a need to increase access to credit,” said Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of The Goldman Sachs Group. “We want to disrupt the traditions of the local banking system by providing financial incentives for these banks to put more energy into evaluating female owned businesses.”
“Women entrepreneurs are a powerful force for prosperity. Empowering them in developing countries unleashes economic growth and creates jobs in places where both are desperately needed,” said IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou. “This partnership is helping tens of thousands of women-owned enterprises to thrive – and is making the case that investing in women is good business.”
One of WEOF’s significant achievements was mobilizing other investors to invest in women entrepreneurs with the goal of demonstrating their commercial viability as an asset class. In 2015, the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. government’s development finance institution, joined the WEOF partnership with a commitment of up to US$100 million in co-investments.
WEOF builds on the IFC Banking on Women and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiatives. 10,000 Women was launched in 2008 to foster economic growth by providing women entrepreneurs with business education and access to capital. IFC’s Banking on Womenwas established in 2010 to provide financing and expertise to emerging market financial institutions to expand financial services and opportunities for women customers and business owners.
IFC—a sister organization of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work with more than 2,000 businesses worldwide, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in the toughest areas of the world. In FY17, we delivered a record $19.3 billion in long-term financing for developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to help end poverty and boost shared prosperity.
About Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women
The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative was launched in 2008 to foster greater shared economic growth by providing underserved women entrepreneurs around the world with a business and management education and access to capital, mentoring, and networking. The initiative has reached women from across 56 countries through a network of 100 academic, nonprofit, and bank partners. Globally, graduates report immediate and sustained business growth. Eighteen months after completing the program, nearly 70% of surveyed graduates increased their revenue and nearly 60% added new jobs. On average, graduates doubled the size of their workforces and revenues increased nearly fivefold, and nine out of ten participants pay it forward by mentoring other women.