By Moa Westman and Sabine Kayser
Women are at the heart of the Ugandan economy. They own almost 40% of all registered businesses, giving Uganda the highest concentration of female-owned businesses in the world. But Ugandan women often don’t get the support they need for their businesses to thrive. Women-owned businesses only account for a sliver — 9% — of commercial credit issued in the country.
An international initiative, the 2X Challenge, aims to change that. Launched in 2019, the 2X Challenge represents commitments by the G 7 industrialised nations to mobilise billions to fund women’s economic empowerment in developing countries. As of July, the 2X Challenge had committed and mobilised $4.5 billion.
The European Investment Bank adopted the 2X Challenge criteria in October 2019 and at the same time announced, SheInvest, its own commitment to mobilise €1 billion of gender-responsive investments across Africa. Initiatives like SheInvest and the 2X Challenge are trying to fill an estimated $1.7 trillion financing gap worldwide for micro, small and medium-sized businesses owned and run by women.
In December 2019, the European Investment Bank signed the first loan under the SheInvest initiative—to the Uganda Development Bank (UDB). The UDB received €15 million, almost one-third of which will go to supporting women-owned and women-run businesses. To find those candidates, UDB will apply the 2X Challenge’s investment criteria on female entrepreneurship, leadership, employment and consumption.