*** From right to left: Aïssata Lam, APIM Executive Director and AFAWA Ambassador, Marieme Esther Dassanou, Chief Coordinator of the African Development Bank’s AFAWA Initiative, Didi Tajidine, Director General of BCI, Mohamed El Azizi, Director General of the African Development Bank’s North Africa Regional Office and Sonia Barbaria, AFAWA Regional Officer for North and West Africa ***

By Fahd Belbachir

The African Development Bank and the Bank for Trade and Industry (BCI) of Mauritania have signed a $485,000 technical assistance agreement for the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) program which aims at promoting women’s access to finance in Africa.

The agreement was signed by Mohamed El Azizi, African Development Bank Director General for North Africa and Isselmou Tajidine, Managing Director of BCI’s Trade and Industry Group, on the sidelines of the Mauritania Investment Forum. The forum, titled, Invest Days-Nouakchott, was organized by the Mauritania Investment Promotion Agency.

The Promoting Access of Women-Owned Enterprises to Financial and Technical Support Services in the Western Sahel Region project is financed by the African Development Bank with funding support from the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi). The project  aims to strengthen BCI’s financing capacity for trade and industry and to better support women small and medium enterprises in Mauritania, Mali, Senegal and Guinea.

“The signing of this technical assistance agreement with the BCI Group is an important step in supporting the financial inclusion and growth of women-led SMEs, which play a crucial role in Mauritania’s economic development,” said Mohamed El Azizi.

The agreement consolidates a €10 million line of credit approved by the Bank’s board of directors in 2021 by the African Development Bank to the Bank for Trade and Industry to support the growth and trade of strategic small businesses, including women entrepreneurs.

Tajidine said: “This technical assistance project reinforces the BCI Group’s strategic partnership with the African Development Bank, which will position us as the bank of choice for women entrepreneurs in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Guinea. it will help expand our offering of financial products and technical support for women-led businesses.”

AFAWA and the Mauritania Investment Promotion Agency organized a workshop on strengthening financial inclusion of women’s SMEs in Mauritania during the Invest Days-Nouakchott Forum. The session presented the mechanisms of the initiative, including the “Guarantee for Growth” program implemented by the African Guarantee Fund. It also provided an opportunity to discuss the regulatory framework and steps that authorities and businesses can take to improve the financial access for women’s businesses.

The forum also featured the launch of the AFAWA ambassadors program which will advocate for accelerating access to finance for Africa’s women entrepreneurs and showcase women leaders. The first AFAWA ambassadors are Angélique Kidjo, musician and founder and CEO, Batonga Foundation; Evelyne Tall-Daouda, founder, E and Partners and former deputy CEO and COO of Ecobank Transnational Inc; Monica Musonda, Founder and CEO of Java Foods; and Aïssata Lam, Director General, The Investment Promotion Agency of Mauritania.

Aïssata Lam, Director General of the Investment Promotion Agency in Mauritania, was recently named one of the World Economic Forum’s Global Young Leaders. She said she was “proud to be an AFAWA Ambassador, which is a crucial initiative to bridge the financial gap for African women entrepreneurs through access to finance, technical assistance and policy dialogue.” She stressed the importance of synergy between public and private actors as well as civil society for a regulatory framework and a business environment that would be more conducive to inclusive finance and economic empowerment of African women.

*** From right to left: Aïssata Lam, Director General of APIM and AFAWA Ambassador and Marieme Esther Dassanou, Chief Coordinator of the African Development Bank’s AFAWA initiative, during the launch of the AFAWA Ambassadors program in Nouakchott ***

About AFAWA

The Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) is a pan-African initiative that aims to close the US$42 billion financing gap for women in Africa. AFAWA aims to unlock $5 billion in financing for women-owned and managed small and medium enterprises by 2026. AFAWA is supported by the African Development Bank’s partners and donors, the G7 countries, the Netherlands and Sweden and the Women’s Enterprise Finance Initiative (We-Fi). Through AFAWA, the African Development Bank has invested over $1 billion in financing for women entrepreneurs in 27 countries, channeled through 56 financial institutions.

About the Bank for Trade and Industry Group

Founded in 1999 by its current president, Isselmou Tajidine, the Bank for Trade and Industry (BCI)  is the leading trade finance bank in Mauritania. As part of its West African development strategy, the BCI Group was created with subsidiaries in Mali, Guinea and Senegal and aims to consolidate its role as an active trade finance banking group in the sub-region. Its network of international banking correspondents enables it to effectively support SMEs and local companies in financing and confirming international trade transactions. The BCI Group has subsidiaries in Mali, Guinea and Senegal and aims to consolidate its role as an active group in trade finance between Mauritania and West Africa.

About the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), hosted by the World Bank Group, is a partnership of 14 governments, 8 multilateral development banks and various public and private sector stakeholders. The African Development Bank is an implementing partner and AFAWA is a We-Fi initiative. For more information, visit www.We-Fi.org.

From right to left: Aïssata Lam, Director General of APIM and AFAWA Ambassador and Marieme Esther Dassanou, Chief Coordinator of the African Development Bank’s AFAWA initiative, during the launch of the AFAWA Ambassadors program in Nouakchott.

About AFAWA

The Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) is a pan-African initiative that aims to close the US$42 billion financing gap for women in Africa. AFAWA aims to unlock $5 billion in financing for women-owned and managed small and medium enterprises by 2026. AFAWA is supported by the African Development Bank’s partners and donors, the G7 countries, the Netherlands and Sweden and the Women’s Enterprise Finance Initiative (We-Fi). Through AFAWA, the African Development Bank has invested over $1 billion in financing for women entrepreneurs in 27 countries, channeled through 56 financial institutions.

About the Bank for Trade and Industry Group

Founded in 1999 by its current president, Isselmou Tajidine, the Bank for Trade and Industry (BCI)  is the leading trade finance bank in Mauritania. As part of its West African development strategy, the BCI Group was created with subsidiaries in Mali, Guinea and Senegal and aims to consolidate its role as an active trade finance banking group in the sub-region. Its network of international banking correspondents enables it to effectively support SMEs and local companies in financing and confirming international trade transactions. The BCI Group has subsidiaries in Mali, Guinea and Senegal and aims to consolidate its role as an active group in trade finance between Mauritania and West Africa.

About the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), hosted by the World Bank Group, is a partnership of 14 governments, 8 multilateral development banks and various public and private sector stakeholders. The African Development Bank is an implementing partner and AFAWA is a We-Fi initiative. For more information, visit www.We-Fi.org.