UN Asia-Pacific fund to support female entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia

16-Jan-2021 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has teamed up with the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) to launch a fund supporting female entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam.

Serving as the UN’s regional hub for inclusive and sustainable development, ESCAP said in a press release this week that the Women Enterprise Recovery Fund aims to “promote upscaling digital solutions for enhancing growth and resilience of the women-led enterprises.”

The fund will be open to all applicants anywhere in the world, but on condition that the project’s implementation and solution target female entrepreneurs in one or more of the six countries.

Successful applicants will receive up to $50,000, along with technical assistance provided through the networks of ESCAP, UNCDF and three supporters of the fund.

The three supporters are the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO), the government of Canada and global payments technology company Visa.

“Through this fund, we will support innovative business solutions that address the constraints faced by women enterprises in South and Southeast Asia,” UNCDF deputy Executive Secretary Xavier Michon said.

Michon especially expressed hope that the fund will be helpful in the COVID-19 era, noting the target companies “have suffered disproportionately” from the pandemic.

ESCAP deputy Executive Secretary Kaveh Zahedi voiced similar hopes, saying the fund “will bring to market innovative financial and business solutions for women entrepreneurs who have been impacted by the pandemic.”

FMO Capacity Development manager Andrew Shaw said the Dutch development bank is “exceptionally pleased to partner with UNCDF and ESCAP.”

“We believe collaboration with private-sector innovators in the design and implementation of digital solutions is fundamental to help women enterprises that have been economically impacted by COVID-19,” Shaw said.

He also hoped the fund will energise micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in Asia by “showcasing viable digital solutions and sustainable business models to respond to the needs of formal and informal women-led enterprises.”

ESCAP and Washington, D.C.-headquartered Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF) set up a similar fund to support female entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.

The Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund under SEAF is also supported by the government of Canada and PBU, a Danish pension fund for early childhood teachers and youth educators.

The fund focuses on developing women-centered strategies through investments, particularly in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

It also focuses on business sectors in which women comprise a large portion of the labour force, cater to the needs of women and girls, and demonstrate a strong commitment to gender equality and wider diversity.

“We are proud to support the development of gender lens investing in Asia, and enable women-owned and run businesses to innovate, compete and grow,” Zahedi said. Gender lens investing refers to investments seeking financial returns, while also considering the benefits to women. “We have learned that meeting the needs of women entrepreneurs requires us to innovate and go beyond the usual lending modalities toward promoting mentorship, business development support services and access to growth capital and that is exactly what our partnership with SEAF offers.”

SEAF Senior Managing director Jennifer Buckley called the SEAF a “milestone” and is heartened by such support.

ESCAP works on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is reinforced by promoting regional cooperation and integration to advance responses to common vulnerabilities, connectivity, financial cooperation and market integration.



Category: Regional

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