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RBZ sets aside US$15m Women Fund

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has set aside US$15 million for the revolving Women’s Empowerment Fund that is meant to support projects that are owned and managed by women.

The Fund, which attracts an “all-inclusive” interest rate of 10 percent, is a targeted intervention meant to support women as a traditionally financially excluded group.

RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya recently noted that the money will be made available through various local financial institutions.

“The Fund, whose operational modalities are currently being finalised, will be made available for on-lending through commercial banks, Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) and People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB),” said Dr Mangudya in the 2017 Monetary Policy Statement.

The Sunday Mail Business has gathered that selected banks will get US$1 million each for on-lending to beneficiaries, while micro-finance institutions are expected to get between US$50 000 and US$250 000 each.

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Corporation (SMEDCO) is understood to have been recently engaged by the RBZ over the Fund.

The statutory body will be given US$250 000 that is specifically meant for women SMEs.

“SMEDCO was invited to discuss the issue of the WEF with RBZ officials and they were told that they can get up to US$250 000.

“The Fund is open to everyone (financial institutions) but everyone has to send their documents,” said a source which preferred not to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the Press.

The central bank believes the lack of gender-disaggregated data is generally a major constraint in crafting policies that respond to challenges faced by women in accessing financial services and products.

A study that analyses Finscope Survey data from 2011 to 2014 has however since been undertaken.

The study sought to determine uptake and usage of financial services between women and men in terms of the type of services they have or use, and the drivers of uptake and usage, and their respective trends, as well as identify opportunities to improve women access to financial services in Zimbabwe.

It established that the level of access to formal financial services for women increased from 35 percent in 2011 to 68 percent in 2014.

The gap between women and men declined from five percent to two percent.

The National Financial Inclusion Strategy will target to increase the level of access to formal financial services of women in Zimbabwe from 68 percent in 2014 to 90 percent in 2020, and the level of banked adult women from 27 percent in 2014 to 60 percent in 2020.

The study also established a number of issues that affect uptake of formal financial services by women, which if addressed will contribute toward improving the level of financial inclusion for women.

Local women, who celebrated International Women’s Day on Wednesday, chronicled several challenges they face, among them difficulties in accessing credit for their businesses.

As part of measures to support women’s projects, the RBZ is also working on setting up a Women’s Bank.

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