The recipients of the Women Enterprise Recovery Fund have been announced by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund, in collaboration with partners FMO, Visa, and the Government of Canada. Over the next 12 months, the ten winners, which include technology suppliers, FinTechs, and commercial banks, will get financial and technical support to develop and evaluate their solutions. The ten winners’ solutions will help women entrepreneurs have access to and use digital solutions and finance technologies that will help them recover and grow their businesses.
While COVID-19 has had an impact on every economy in Asia-Pacific, the economic consequences for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have been particularly severe. It has resulted in lower wages and employment, as well as greater inequality and poverty rates. According to ESCAP, the pandemic could push 150 million people into poverty by 2021, reversing major progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.
The pandemic has had a disproportionately negative impact on women’s businesses. Prior to the pandemic, women entrepreneurs faced obstacles like informality, the inability to meet collateral requirements, modest cash holdings with poor record-keeping, and a lack of digital and financial literacy, all of which hampered their capacity to use formal financial services. These difficulties have been intensified and compounded since the epidemic, with extra burdens such as increased home care responsibilities.
ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Kaveh Zahedi said, “The pandemic has revealed the region’s ongoing inequities and laid clear the need to rebuild better with inclusivity, resilience, and sustainability”. We must, in particular, bridge the digital and financial disparities that women MSMEs face in order to do this. ESCAP is pleased to be working with the UNCDF, Visa, the Dutch Development Bank FMO, and our funding partner, the Government of Canada, to support digital technology and digital finance solutions for women entrepreneurs, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
ESCAP and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) introduced the Women Enterprise Recovery Fund earlier this year to aid in the economic recovery and digitalization of these businesses. The fund aims to help women’s businesses in South and Southeast Asia build and expand digital business models and solutions to help them overcome financial and other barriers.
Only 17 of the 83 applications received were chosen for the final round of consideration. Shortlisted applicants received mentoring and pitch preparation support in order to improve their business models and increase their chances of receiving funding.