SBP developing linkages program to foster availability of finance to women entrepreneurs

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is developing a comprehensive plan to foster availability of finance to women entrepreneurs through designing and implementing a Women Linkages Program.

According to official documents, the project aims to conduct a diagnostic survey, prepare an action plan to implement the proposed recommendations including a mechanism for monitoring the plan and assist banks in designing women specific products financing & non-financing products & services.

The diagnostic survey on women’s access to finance with reference to SME financing will define the key impediments faced by women entrepreneurs; study the current initiatives taken by various organizations to improve financing to women entrepreneurs; shortlist sectors wherein women entrepreneurs are more involved, identify their needs and  financing requirements.

Based on these findings, a plan will be designed by clearly defining the financial solutions and different activities needed to enhance women’s access to finance; products needed to enhance access to finance to women owned SMEs through formal banking channel. Moreover, an action plan will be launched in order to create awareness among women entrepreneurs.

For this purpose, SBP is hiring consulting services to provide recommendations on improving access to finance to SMEs owned by women entrepreneurs of Pakistan and to assist banks in designing women specific financing & non-financing products.

It will ultimately contribute in enhancing the ability of women entrepreneurs to pursue economic opportunities and to grow their businesses. The consultancy will focus on addressing the extent to which women are less able to access finance.

The hired consultant will develop a comprehensive plan for designing and implementing the Women’s Linkages Program for improving access to finance in Pakistan.

Moreover, the consultancy will also give an overview of international best practices and share success stories of jurisdictions where women financing has been enhanced. It will also do the stock taking of the current initiatives taken by various organizations in Pakistan to improve financing to women entrepreneurs.

Access to finance for women remains a key challenge in Pakistan. Women in Pakistan face both social and financial challenges in setting up and running a business as the overall environment is not very conducive for female entrepreneurship. Other than the lack of family support, financial constraints act as a major hurdle restricting women from opting for entrepreneurship. Banks in general are hesitant to lend to start ups and in case of females this reluctance increases due to a high risk associated with such financing.

The share of female borrowers was a mere 5.0 percent in the total outstanding SME borrowers as of December 31, 2017.

Realizing the importance of female contribution towards economic development, different measures have been taken to facilitate women entrepreneurship particularly with respect to increasing access to finance.

National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) of Pakistan was launched in 2015 to increase the access and usage of financial services especially for the under-banked and un-served population of the country.

Improving financial inclusion of women is one of the priority areas under NFIS as it aims to enhance formal financial access to 50 percent of the adult population and envisions that 25 percent of adult females should have a formal bank account by end of 2020.

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