Initiative launched to promote the empowerment of women entrepreneurs

With women-led micro and small enterprises playing a major role in the Vietnamese economy, the Ignite initiative offers unparalleled solutions including both financial and non-financial services for women entrepreneurs.

CARE, Mastercard, VPBank, WISE, and Canal Circle on October 29 announced the Ignite initiative in Vietnam – a new partnership focused on promoting the empowerment of women entrepreneurs. Photo: Le Ngoc Anh/CARE

According to Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019, in Vietnam, 27 percent of all businesses are owned by women. The country also scores well on a number of indicators such as equality in entrepreneurial activity, and access to financial assets and knowledge. However, women entrepreneurs encounter many difficulties in accessing both financial and non-financial services for self- and their enterprises' development. They also have to face challenges relating to social and gender norms concerning their ability to successfully run businesses.

With the aim to support these women-led small and micro enterprises to grow sustainably by offering them both financial and non-financial services for development, CARE cooperates with VPBank, WISE and Canal Circle to implement IGNITE initiative in Vietnam.

The initiative's press conference took place on October 29 in Hanoi with the participation of stakeholders and women entrepreneurs' representatives. IGNITE is financially supported by Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

Despite a clear entrepreneurial spirit among Vietnamese women, an IFC report indicates that the gap between the capital demand of SMEs owned by women and what banks offer has been estimated at VND 27 trillion (more than USD 1 billion). Despite the relatively high levels of ownership, women face several challenges relating to social and gender norms around their ability to successfully own businesses. For example, there are pervasive beliefs about women not being able to juggle families and work life, are negatively risk-averse, less likely to repay loans, and do not have adequate knowledge and business skills.

COVID-19 pandemic has made women entrepreneurs even more financially vulnerable. A series of focus-group discussions recently conducted by CARE and VPBank shows that women-owned businesses are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. As much as 90 percent out of 21 interviewed enterprises have experienced a significant loss of income, especially those in service, trade and transportation sectors. But the crisis has also helped a number of small and agile businesses to adapt their business models and stay afloat, taking advantage of changing customer behavior.

“VPBank is pleased to join the Ignite partnership as we fully recognize the potential of women-led enterprises in the development of the economy. We have closely engaged female clients who are business owners, and their businesses are going from strength to strength. The performance of our Women Enterprises portfolio over the past few years demonstrates a strong business case to serve women entrepreneurs with tailored financial products and services that meet their needs. We are proud to be a pioneer in the market to position them as a critical customer segment,” said Dang Chau Giang - Head of Marketing & Care, SME division, VPBank.

“WISE is driven by a mission to prepare women entrepreneurs for success through high-quality entrepreneurship training as well as incubation and acceleration support. It is a fact that the proportion of enterprises owned by women in Vietnam has been increasing in recent years, and this both clearly demonstrates the emerging role of women in leadership and business management, and their capacity to be equally as influential as male business leaders in the country”, said Dao Tu Hien, CEO of WISE.

“As a fintech partner, Canal Circle clearly sees the necessity of technology application and digitalization to facilitate access to business opportunities to female entrepreneurs. This is even more critical for female entrepreneurs in rural areas due to infrastructure underdevelopment and the lack of access to digital knowledge. We will partner with Micro-finance Institutions (MFIs) and People’s Credit Funds to help rural businesswomen access affordable financial resources, thus ensuring better opportunities for growing or recovery from disrupted business as a result of the pandemic,” said Evelyn Ha Nguyen – CEO and Founder of Canal Circle.

This multilateral partnership will accelerate the growth of economy-changing businesses while advancing financial security and also promoting inclusive growth through prioritized actions to enable women entrepreneurs to thrive. Source: Internet

“With long experience working to support women around the globe, CARE understands female entrepreneurship is a critical avenue through which to support women’s economic empowerment. We’re thrilled to embrace this partnership to fuel the growth engine of women-owned businesses with tools and financial resources that better suit their needs. This will help build their resilience and boost more inclusive and equitable economic recovery”, said Le Kim Dung, Country Director of CARE International in Vietnam.

According to Winnie Wong, Country Manager, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Mastercard,  women are the core of a country’s economic success and growth. Increasing women’s access to financial services is essential to reducing poverty and also unlocking the true economic potential of the country. Mastercard is truly honored and excited to be part of this initiative that will enable women entrepreneurs in Vietnam access the right tools they need to digitally transform and accelerate their recovery. 

Ignite Initiative is part of a broader three-year partnership between CARE and Mastercard, that aims to equip 3.9 million micro and small businesses in Peru, Pakistan and Vietnam with increased financial access and digital know-how. This is in line with all partners’ shared commitment to financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment.

Earlier this year, the partners collaborated to provide both funds and expertise to help 1,000 women-led MSMEs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to drive a robust recovery from the pandemic, followed by sustained long-term inclusive growth. The aid disbursement initiative is also part of Mastercard’s worldwide agenda to connect one billion people to the digital economy by 2025.

Thu Pham