EBRD, EU and Reefy step up support for women entrepreneurs in Egypt

By Nibal Zgheib

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  • EGP 80 million EBRD loan to Reefy to finance women entrepreneurs in Egypt
  • Donor support from European Union
  • Focus on women-led private businesses outside of Greater Cairo and Alexandria

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is stepping up its support for women entrepreneurs in Egypt, with a loan of EGP 80 million (€4.3 million equivalent) to Reefy Microfinance Enterprise Services, the country’s first licensed microfinance institution.

The loan will be provided under the EBRD’s Women in Business programme. It will be used to support privately owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) that are owned by women, especially in governorates other than Greater Cairo and Alexandria. Supported by funds from the European Union Initiative for Financial Inclusion,* and in conjunction with the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses unit, the programme will also offer capacity-building and advisory services directly to women-led MSMEs to boost women entrepreneurs’ know-how.

The loan will help Reefy introduce new financial products, modified lending practices and business models that are more inclusive and gender-responsive.

The EBRD’s Women in Business programme promotes the participation of women in the economy and provides financial, advisory, training and mentoring support to female entrepreneurs. It focuses in particular on women-led small businesses with fewer than 250 employees and less than €50 million in annual turnover. The programme covers most sectors and industries.

The loan to Reefy marks the EBRD’s second engagement in the microfinance sector of Egypt, where Reefy is one of the leading players, with a fast-growing balance sheet and an expanding branch network. Access to finance is a key requirement for the growth of the private sector, the engine of Egypt’s economy.

Alain Pilloux, EBRD Vice President, Banking, said: “We are very happy to partner with the EU and Reefy to empower women entrepreneurs by helping them gain access to finance and know-how. We believe that equality of opportunity for women entrepreneurs is a priority from a gender and an economic perspective as it helps create jobs for a big segment of Egyptian society and drives economic growth.”

“Today’s signature of the Reefy microfinance loan is another important step in the joint support provided by the European Union and the EBRD.  It reflects our strong commitment to supporting women’s economic empowerment in Egypt,” said Ambassador Christian Berger, Head of the EU Delegation to Egypt.

Ahmed Labib, CEO of Reefy, commented: “We are eager to be joining forces with the EBRD, as part of Reefy’s strategy to further diversify our funding sources and increase our corporate social responsibility. Following our robust network expansion plan in 2020, it is essential to gear up to cater for the business activity we anticipate, in parallel with the market’s recovery. Approximately 42 per cent of our outstanding portfolio is to fund women-led businesses, emphasising their role in boosting the economy’s growth.”

Egypt is a founding member of the EBRD. Since the start of the Bank’s operations there in 2012, the EBRD has invested almost €8 billion in 136 projects in the country. The EBRD’s areas of investment include the financial sector, agribusiness, manufacturing and services, as well as infrastructure projects such as power, municipal water and wastewater services, and contributions to the upgrade of transport services‎.

* The EU Initiative for Financial Inclusion is a comprehensive programme to help micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the southern and eastern Mediterranean region to become more competitive and grow. It provides finance and know-how to boost development and create jobs.

 

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