Release funds to women entrepreneurs – Chikwanda


MINISTER of Finance Alexander Chikwanda has urged government-sponsored financial institutions to streamline procedures and quicken the pace of disbursing finances to women entrepreneurs in the country.
Mr Chikwanda also says currently, commercial banks cannot be useful channels for small and medium enterprises because interest factors are prohibitive.
The minister said this yesterday in Lusaka when he delivered his keynote address during a one-day finance and women entrepreneurs workshop on the theme ‘Access to finance for women entrepreneurs: Promoting gender equality, economic growth and decent work’.
The workshop, hosted by the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) in partnership with the International Labour Organisation, provided a platform for women entrepreneurs to interact with policy makers and the private sector to ensure that the challenges of access to finance are addressed in a sustainable manner.
“The banks in the country that are developed and industrialised played historic roles in mobilising capital, which entrepreneurs had recourse to. Government-sponsored financial institutions have scanty resources, which we are trying to boost. It is a process but things are moving at a pace in the right direction,” Mr Chikwanda said.
He said it is also necessary to determine women’s access to state-sponsored financial institutions, adding that in all development endeavours, the most important resource any country has is people armed with attributes of knowledge, skills and, above all, a suitable work ethic.
“Women in Zambia constitute one of the country’s most valuable assets. Their contribution to the country’s development will invariably occupy a central stage. Throughout rural Zambia, women form the mainstream of agriculture, producing a wide range of food and other non-food products,” Mr Chikwanda said.
He is happy that in urban areas, women have established their entrepreneurial attributes beyond doubt, saying women are major breadwinners and support many households.
Mr Chikwanda said with all severe logistical and financial constraints, women all over the world are sourcing a range of merchandise, which they sell on the local market to sustain families even in households where men are in employment.
And speaking at the same function, BoZ Governor Michael Gondwe said the central bank will continue to create an enabling environment that facilitates greater financial inclusion of women.
Dr Gondwe said to graduate women’s income-generating activities from survival level into strong and viable business, women need access to credit, banking and financial services and other facilities which are essential to fully develop their businesses.
He said it is also unfortunate that some banks have tended to be conservative in their lending practices, making it difficult for small women-owned businesses to have access to credit needed to invest in expanding their income-generating activities.
Participants of the workshop were drawn from the Ministry of Gender and Child Development, Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, United Nations Development Programme, African Development Bank, the Zambia Federation of Associations of Women in Business and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme.