The FINANCIAL — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has launched its internationally successful Women in Business Programme in Morocco, with the aim of strengthening the national economy by unleashing the potential of female entrepreneurs.
The Women in Business Programme supports women entrepreneurs across the EBRD regions. Since its launch in 2014, the EBRD initiative has reached 35,000 women, providing financing of over €450 million in cooperation with more than 30 financial institutions in some 17 countries, as well as improved access to know-how, skills development training and business networks.
The EBRD’s Women in Business Programme in Morocco will receive important support from the European Union under the EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion* which is delivering crucial funding for advisory services and for guarantees to the EBRD’s partner banks.
At an event in Casablanca to launch the programme in Morocco, the EBRD’s Managing Director for the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region, Janet Heckman, signed an accord with two local banks that will on-lend EBRD finance to women-led firms.
The event was also attended by Bassima El Hakkaoui, the Moroccan Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development and Alessio Cappellani, the deputy head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Morocco.
In an initial phase, the EBRD will provide the equivalent of a total of €35 million in local currency to BMCE Bank of Africa and BMCI (Banque marocaine pour le commerce et l’industrie) to support women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The EBRD signed a five-year €20 million loan with BMCE and five-year €15 million loan with BMCI.
Other banks are expected to join the initiative. The programme aims in its initial phase to reach at least 200 women entrepreneurs, through both financing and advisory services. A focus will be put on supporting entrepreneurs outside of Morocco’s main commercial centres.
In addition to financing, women entrepreneurs receive business advice to make their businesses more competitive, as well as training, mentoring and network-building services, and also access to the EBRD’s online self-diagnostic, Business Lens. The training and mentoring allows women entrepreneurs to share experiences and learn from each other.
The Women in Business Programme has the potential to make a major impact in Morocco. The economic empowerment of women has been identified as an engine for promoting economic growth. Only 50 per cent of formal women-led firms in Morocco use a bank account and even those who do are often unable to use the full range of what banks have to offer.
The EBRD has supported the development of private sector economies since its creation in 1991. It now invests in 38 emerging economies across three continents, providing financing of €9.7 billion in 2017 alone. In addition to developing private enterprises, the EBRD finances sustainable energy and infrastructure projects.