FinDev Canada on empowering women

A gender-lens approach can boost business performance and enhance women’s economic empowerment in Africa, says Anne-Marie Lévesque of development finance institution FinDev Canada.

Anne-Marie Lévesque

Why is gender-lens investing important to FinDev Canada and what does this approach involve?

Women’s economic empowerment is a strategic priority for FinDev Canada. Our gender-lens approach is key to help reduce poverty and achieve a sustainable future, but also an asset to drive business performance.

At a portfolio level, we evaluate 100 percent of our transactions based on their potential to drive gender inclusion and increase women’s access to economic opportunities, looking to steer capital towards transactions with a high impact on women’s economic empowerment and support clients to become more gender-inclusive.

At an industry level, we approach our practices, our place in the DFI community and our partnerships with a gender lens.

How is this lens applied to Africa-focused private markets investments?

One example is our $12 million equity investment in West African integrated forestry and timber enterprise Miro Forestry, which committed to increasing the proportion of women in its workforce and developed a Gender Action Plan to help further close gender gaps.

Another example is our $30 million investment in African Development Partners III. ADP III is the first 2X Flagship Fund, having qualified under the terms of the 2X Challenge for funds committed to advancing women’s economic empowerment. The fund developed an innovative and comprehensive gender-lens investing strategy using the 2X criteria.

Beyond our investments, we also support the African gender-lens investing ecosystem through initiatives such as Invest2Impact and the fund design with a gender lens initiative in partnership with UN Women and Lelapa.

How can DFIs contribute to women’s economic empowerment in Africa?

We know that a more gender-equal private sector correlates with better business performance and greater economic growth, and so do our peers. Many DFIs are already part of the 2X Challenge, a commitment to invest and mobilise capital towards business opportunities that will benefit women. The results so far are impressive, with over $7 billion committed to date and a commitment announced during the G7 Summit last year to mobilise another $15 billion by 2022.

In 2020, the 2X Challenge Working Group issued specific recommendations for investors to tackle rapid crisis response and investments in longer-term recovery with a gender lens.

How is FinDev Canada supporting women and underserved groups in the wake of the pandemic?

During the crisis, FinDev Canada partnered with financial intermediaries to inject liquidity into the market and reach SMEs, which created over two-thirds of formal employment in Africa before the beginning of the pandemic and are in dire need of support.

We also launched 2X Canada, Inclusive Economic Recovery, a blended finance facility funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, that will allow us to further support investments with a positive impact on women’s economic empowerment in Africa. This facility unlocks the possibility to invest in riskier fragile markets where FinDev Canada cannot currently invest directly.

Anne-Marie Lévesque is director, gender and impact management, at FinDev Canada