The Rockefeller Foundation Supports Graça Machel Trust Gender Lens Investment Initiative

The Graça Machel Trust is pleased to announce that it has received a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to support the development of a Pan African investment vehicle to accelerate women’s economic empowerment. The grant will support the design process that allows the Trust to seek partnerships with financial institutions to bring this vision to reality.

Women in Africa face numerous challenges in trying to start businesses, but have among the world’s highest rates of female entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs often finance their expansion using their own resources despite nearly 70% admitting that their current mode of financing is inadequate to meet their growth needs. According to research conducted by the Graça Machel Trust, the Growth barriers affecting women entrepreneurs in East Africa, the decision to self-finance is based on a belief that they do not have the requirements to access funding from traditional financial institutions. There are limited options for businesses seeking financing larger than microfinance loans, but smaller than commercial bank small business loans or typical equity investments.

A re-engineering of our financial systems is needed to ensure products and services are more responsive and relevant to the needs of female entrepreneurs. In this spirit, the Graça Machel Trust has been laying the groundwork for a transformative initiative—a woman focused investment fund. It is unique in that it will be partially women owned, designed, managed, and focused on investing with a gender lens. It will reshape the narrative of Africa as a role model that is successful in business, an equal opportunity employer, an impact investor, designing products and services targeted at the female segment, and a knowledge sharer through peer mentoring networks.

Speaking on the need to address the financial disparities, Mrs. Machel said, “My belief is that there is a need to apply a more rigorous gender-lens investing approach in Africa. Gender-lens investing can be a powerful lever in the use of finance as a tool for social and economic transformation, as it requires investments which are mindful of tangible benefits for women. Gender-lens investing has multifaceted entry points to advance women in the formal and informal economies. It gives an opportunity to deploy capital meaningfully in the search of better outcomes for women and girls.”

Mrs Graca Machel. Photo Credit Graca Machel Trust.

“Women around the world are at greater risk of economic insecurity, especially when they lack access to the right tools and financial services. The result of that exclusion is devastating for women, their families, and their communities,” said Christine Heenan, Vice President of Policy & Advocacy with The Rockefeller Foundation. “We are pleased to support the Graça Machel Trust’s efforts to unlock capital and create a results-oriented framework that opens pathways of opportunity for female entrepreneurs in Africa.”

By adopting a gender-focused, socially conscious approach to hard economics, the Trust hopes to generate more innovation in the financial sector that can create more customized solutions for the unserved and under-served marginalized segments and create a new cohort of finance professionals to counter traditional models.