The Open Society Foundations has announced commitments totaling $15 million from its Economic Justice Program to two women-led investment funds in support of economic and gender equity efforts in Africa.
Made through the Soros Economic Development Fund (SEDF), the foundation's impact investing arm, the commitments include $10 million to Alitheia IDF and $5 million to Women's World Banking Capital Partners II, which is managed by Women's World Banking. Alitheia IDF will invest up to $5 million of the funds it receives in small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) working to promote gender equality across southern and western Africa, with a focus on sectors where women are highly represented, including agribusinesses, consumer goods, and essential services. The OSF grant will help Women's World Banking Capital Partners II invest between $5 million and $10 million in financial services companies in emerging markets, with the goal of advancing women's financial inclusion and increasing gender participation at investee companies.
According to OSF, 40 percent of Africa's SMEs are women-owned, but only 2 percent of them succeed in accessing financing, resulting in an unmet financing need gap of approximately $20 billion. Since March, SEDF has made investments totaling $33 million across a range of sectors, including gender equity, climate adaptation, and human rights.
"These investments are coming at a particularly crucial time, as African women — who are a part of the informal economy — are at a heightened risk of economic precarity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic," said OSF Economic Justice program officer Sarah Hewitt. "SEDF is also ramping up investment work to directly respond to COVID-19 and has also helped seed an impact investment coordination platform hosted by the Global Impact Investment Network."