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15 Jul 2020

UN Women, ImpactHER and African Development Bank

Transformative policy solutions to support women-led business in Africa in a post-Covid-19 world

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COVID-19 is wreaking economic havoc across the world, Africa included. The International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) reports that sub-Saharan Africa growth rate projected at 5.2% for 2020, has taken a downturn and is now projected to contract by -1.6%...Women-led businesses across Africa are already significantly impacted by COVID19. A survey conducted by ImpactHER with over 1,300 women SME owners across 30 African countries revealed that most women-led SMEs are at risk of permanent business shut down as a result of the pandemic...

In responding to how COVID-19 has affected their business operations, 80% of the respondents reported that they had to temporarily shut down their business. Of those that are still fully or partially operating, 41% reported that they had significantly reduced the number of work hours, 34% reported that they laid-off workers, and 25% reported that they had to reduce their employees’ salaries...

Similarly, in a survey conducted by UN Women with 165 women entrepreneurs in Mali, as much as 96% had seen their economic activity reduced in the first two months of the crisis. Also, women-led businesses are being impacted at a faster rate than SMEs led by men. A survey by UN Women and the SME agency of Cote D’Ivoire showed that a significantly higher number of women-led businesses have been forced to stop its operations because of the crisis (64% for women-led businesses as compared to 52% for men-led)...

The lockdowns have severely impacted women-led businesses cash flows, as women SME owners reported decreased revenue, while also having limited reserves to sustain their businesses. For example, Tessi, a business owner from Zimbabwe stated: “We have had to shut down doors thereby cutting our lifeblood which was income from sales. Salaries for staff cannot be paid and we may have to close our businesses totally after the lockdown.”

To mend the gap, stimulus packages, and post COVID-19 policies must be gender-sensitive – they must take into account the barriers that women-led SMEs faced prior to the pandemic that prevented their businesses from achieving their economic potential. In addition to the gender finance gap, the barriers included...