By Emeka Aginam
With Nigerian women among beneficiaries, the International Finance Corporation, IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, from its Village Phone program has provided credit to nearly 6,000 women from Malawi and Madagascar even as it trained close to 10,000 to set up phone service businesses , thus increasing the economic participation of women in some of Africa’s most rural communities.
Before now, IFC’s Village Phone Program links large telecom operators with African entrepreneurs who sell airtime on the companies’ networks to people in their local communities.
The relationship brings rural villagers access to telephone services, local entrepreneurs the means to build an income-generating business, and participating telecoms companies a way to expand their reach.
It would be recalled that IFC launched the program in Nigeria in 2007, and expanded it to Madagascar and Malawi the following year
On the centennial of International Women’s Day, Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, participated as special guest speaker at a ceremony at IFC’s headquarters, where the program received the Annual IFC CEO Gender Award for outstanding achievement in promoting women in business.
The ceremony was attended by representatives from governments, women’s organizations, and the media.
“IFC is doing a remarkable job by increasing access to finance for women entrepreneurs, reducing gender-based barriers in the investment climate, and improving sustainability in the private sector,” Blair said.