U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says African businesswomen need more access to credit.
As African economies work to attract more outside investment and expand cross-border trade, Clinton said there should be more of an effort to help the continent's businesswomen.
“No country can thrive when half its people are left behind," she said. "And the evidence is so persuasive. Small- and medium-sized enterprises run by women are major drivers of economic growth.”
During her trip to Africa this week, Clinton told business and government leaders that when women prosper financially, the benefits carry over to improvements in children's health and education.
“Women are holding up half the economy already," said the secretary of state. "Let's give them the opportunities to bring along all the rest of us with their hard work and their success. Because when a women prospers, she reinvests those earnings in her family and the positive ripple effects cross an entire community.”
The Obama administration is spending $2 million this year and next to help fund the Zambia-based African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program to help businesswomen connect with potential partners.
Clinton said breaking down barriers for African women means changing the environment in which they do business.
“In too many places, it is still too difficult for a woman to start a businesses," she said. "Cultural traditions may discourage her from handling money or managing employees. Complex regulations may make it hard for her to buy land or keep land or get a loan. She has to balance the needs of her own family and somehow overcome all of these barriers.”
The African Development Bank says there is $19 billion in unmet demand for financing from women entrepreneurs - missed opportunities for both financial institutions and local economies hungry for the jobs that small- and medium-sized businesses create.