The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) launched the Women MSME FinTech Innovation Fund in March 2019 in partnership with the Australian Government (DFAT), the Dutch development Bank (FMO), and Visa Inc, with the financial support from the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.
Through the Women MSME Fintech Innovation Fund, companies were invited to develop digital solutions to improve access to finance for women-owned, managed or led MSMEs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa and Viet Nam.
Following a rigorous and independent selection process, we are delighted to announce 10 winners who will pilot their innovative solutions over the next 12 months.
More than 45% of micro, small and medium sized companies (MSMEs) in Asia and the Pacific experience access to finance as a constraint. More than 90% of enterprises in developing Asia and the Pacific are MSMEs, making them a vital source of income and employment. The constraints faced by MSMEs limits regional economic growth.
To address the issues that female business owners face, we need entrepreneur-centric solutions that will allow her to grow her business and reach her full potential. FMO has proudly partnered with UNCDF and UNESCAP on the Women MSME Fintech Innovation Fund to stimulate entrepreneurs to innovate and find scalable and impactful business models. This fund will also support start-up ecosystems blossom, and to focus the challenges that MSMEs face
- Andrew Shaw, Senior Advisor, Fintech and Financial Inclusion at FMO
All MSMEs in the region face supply-side, demand-side, and enabling environment constraints in their access to finance. Due to cross-cutting socio-cultural norms, women-owned, managed or led enterprises face additional gender-specific barriers in access to institutional credit and other financial services, as well as greater vulnerability to the barriers compared with MSMEs owned by men.
The Women MSME Fintech Innovation Fund was launched to identify and support solutions to overcome the access to finance barriers faced by women-owned, managed or led enterprises in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa and Viet Nam. The Innovation Fund invited companies to submit a proposal for a project to pilot an innovative solution that would help to meet this challenge.
We received over 100 innovative proposals from businesses registered in more than 20 countries around the region. The breadth of proposals received was impressive. It is encouraging to see how digital finance and digital solutions can be used to address some of the barriers women led MSMEs face in accessing finance and advancing their business. ESCAP is grateful to the Government of Canada for their support to this initiative
- Hongjoo Hahm, Deputy Executive Secretary, ESCAP
The Women MSME Fintech Innovation Fund is hosted by the UNCDF SHIFT Fund Facility which was developed by UNCDF in 2015 with support from the Australian Government's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
110 applications were received and analysed by a Review Team composed of industry experts. The Review Team produced a shortlist of 30 applicants, who were invited to develop a pitch on their proposed solution.
UNCDF, UNESCAP, Visa and FMO provided mentoring and guidance for the applicants’ pitch preparation. This helped them focus and refine their pitches to better present their business solutions and expected impact. The shortlisted applicants then delivered their pitches to one of three Investment Committees representing the ASEAN, SAARC, and Pacific regions respectively.
At the heart of Visa’s social impact vision is the belief that micro and small enterprises are the backbone of the global economy, providing income and employment to improve the livelihoods of billions everywhere. We also believe that given the right opportunities and support, women owned-business and entrepreneurs can have a significant impact on economic growth. Partnerships such as the Women Fintech MSME Innovation Fund will give fintechs the support they need to implement locally-relevant solutions to help more women-owned MSMEs thrive with access to formal financial services.
- Arif Qayyum, Senior Director, Social Impact, Asia Pacific
The Investment Committees were composed of top industry experts for each of the target countries. This encompassed diverse expertise from different sectors such as institutional finance, fintech, regulatory and development. The Investment Committee selected the best projects based on criteria including innovation, design, impact, additionality, scalability, gender focus and team experience.
Transforming towards digital economy requires inclusive partnerships and concerted effort towards enhancing MSMEs competitiveness. We thank ESCAP, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Canada, the Dutch development Bank and VISA for their collaboration and support for bringing in the much-needed synergy on advancing women MSMEs through use of the UNCDF SHIFT Innovation Fund mechanism
- Rajeev Kumar Gupta, SHIFT ASEAN and SAARC Programme Manager, UNCDF
A total of 10 projects were selected as winners. These projects will receive risk capital to pilot their solutions, in addition to mentoring and guidance from industry experts.
Meet the Winners