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Beyond Access: promoting gender transformative finance for Zambian women entrepreneurs

In Zambia, as is the case with many African countries, millions of people make their living running enterprises. These are mainly survivalist activities that provide subsistence-level income to their owners. Women are overrepresented in the microbusiness sector and there are limited prospects for growth. Financial exclusion is considered to be a key barrier. Access to financial products and services is believed to help women grow their businesses and improve their livelihoods.

The Zambian government and donor agencies are putting mechanisms in place to facilitate access to finance. However, social and cultural constraints can prevent women from fully taking advantage of these products and services. The result can be low uptake or little to no effect on their economic empowerment and labour market decisions.

This project, implemented in collaboration with the London School of Economics, will help enhance the effectiveness of government, donor, and private sector interventions. It will make an important contribution to understanding factors that can enhance the transformative potential of financial inclusion innovations by exploring the main drivers of women’s family and financial decisions and the gender gaps in leveraging financial access.

This will provide the evidence to support the policy debate around the best ways to address female entrepreneurs’ financial needs while preserving the family’s unity and welfare. It will also help financial service providers to provide interventions that can tackle the combination of family, business, and financial constraints that women face. Finally, it will address the questions of whether norms and household dynamics influence the financial uptake and success of female entrepreneurs, and whether financial inclusion is transformative by itself or needs to be coupled with other interventions to have a positive impact on the livelihoods of the people it targets.

Project ID
Project Status
18 months
IDRC Officer
Martha Melesse
Total Funding
CA$ 417,100.00
Sustainable Inclusive Economies
Employment and Growth
Agriculture and Food Security
Institution Country
United Kingdom
Project Leader
Nava Ashraf
London School of Economics and Political Science