EIB supports investment in women-led businesses in Africa

 October 23, 2023

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A career at the European Investment Bank (EIB) can be both fulfilling and impactful. Through its operations, the EIB promotes gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. In line with its Gender Action Plan, the EIB is committed to supporting projects and investments that empower women worldwide.

EIB Media Officer, Anne-Laure Gaffuri, explains how EIB's collaboration with Alitheia IDF, a gender-lens African investment fund, unlocks more investment in women-led businesses across Africa. Working in the EIB's story development unit, Anne-Laure's job is to describe how the EIB improves lives and protects the environment all over the world.

Backing women-owned businesses in Africa

The first dedicated gender lens investing fund in Africa, Alitheia IDF is a pioneering private equity fund that identifies, invests in, and grows SMEs led by gender-diverse teams to achieve solid financial returns and tangible social impact for communities in Africa. 

In 2008, when its two female founding partners, Tokunboh Ishmael and Polo Leteka, started Alitheia IDF, they were determined to back women-owned businesses because they knew that there were many women on the continent whose businesses could grow with the right funding. Now, from its offices in Lagos and Johannesburg, Alitheia IDF works across six countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Alitheia IDF invests in sectors that engage a significant percentage of women, either as entrepreneurs, producers, distributors or consumers. 

Investing in a female-only private equity team

The EIB signed a $24.6 million investment in the pioneering fund in November 2021, enabling Alitheia to reach its target size of $100 million.

"It’s the EU bank’s first investment in a private equity fund that focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises with a gender lens in Africa," explains Anne-Laure.

EIB Private Equity Funds Investment Officer Déborah Vouche worked on the EU bank’s investment in Alitheia. Déborah explains to Anne-Laure that the EIB was attracted by the opportunity to invest in a female-only team in a private equity world dominated by men.

“This is a true by women, for women fund. They were pioneers in this segment and really the first team to propose a gender-focused fund in sub-Saharan Africa," says Déborah.

Alitheia has committed to investing with a gender lens using the 2X criteria and is a 2X Flagship Fund. 2X Flagship funds are part of the 2X Challenge, a multilateral initiative launched by the development finance institutions of the G7 countries, with the aim of mobilizing $15 billion by the end of 2022 to support projects that empower women and enhance their economic participation.

"The EIB was the first multilateral development bank to adopt and use the 2X criteria," adds Anne-Laure.

Champion women in the workplace and beyond via a role with EIB Group 

The EIB Group supports women both in and out of the workplace. Within the workplace, the EIB is committed to driving gender equality. The EU bank champions diversity and inclusion not only because of the undeniable business benefits they bring, but also because of their power to enrich the working environment for all staff.

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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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