Boosting access to finance for women entrepreneurs in Jordan

The EBRD is promoting gender equality in the Jordanian marketplace.

Although globally few banks have developed special programmes for women in business, the commercial case for extending services to this under-served segment of potential clients is well understood. As a result, financial institutions are showing greater interested in launching programmes promoting access to finance for women.

Lending to female entrepreneurs

Jordan Ahli Bank (JAB), a potential EBRD client, expressed interest in conducting a gender study on access to finance for women entrepreneurs. JAB sought to improve its understanding of the existing challenges and to identify how they might be addressed. This technical cooperation (TC) project, supported by donors to the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Multi-Donor Account*, profiled the demand and supply factors relevant to women entrepreneurs seeking finance in Jordan. It helped to generate an understanding of the pattern of JAB lending to female entrepreneurs, documenting the non-financial challenges that females encounter in accessing finance. The project provided operationally-relevant recommendations for the bank to consider and implement. The project started in late 2012 and finished in early 2013.

Introducing training and promoting access to finance

Amongst other recommendations, the project report suggested the introduction of training and business advisory service programmes, promotion of access to finance, the sensitisation of customer care and human resources staff to gender issues, and the revision of marketing activities to target female clients. For JAB the recommendations have been useful and have created a sound platform for further planning.

The bank is now establishing a taskforce to study the project recommendations and develop an action plan promoting access to finance for women entrepreneurs. It is hoped that the groundwork laid by this assignment will lead to an increase in the number of female clients doing business with JAB and thereby boost the participation of female entrepreneurs in the Jordanian economy. The project also provided useful lessons and entry points that will help the EBRD to manage similar projects in the SEMED region more effectively.

*Donors to the SEMED Multi-Donor Account include: Australia, Finland, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.