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UN’s Innovation Fund to aid women-led enterprises

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Women weave at the Cambodian Women’s Development Agency in the capital’s Prampi Makara district in 2015. HONG MENEA

UN’s Innovation Fund to aid women-led enterprises

The United Nations Capital Development Fund has launched an Innovation Fund in the Asia-Pacific region in a bid to empower women by promoting micro-, small- and medium-enterprises run by them.

Selected applicants from Nepal, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar, Samoa and Vietnam will receive up to $50,000 financing including technical assistance and mentoring, the fund said on Wednesday. The objective of the project is to promote innovative digital solutions to support women-led micro-, small- and medium-enterprises, it said.

Eligible applicants who can apply for the fund are banks and financial institutions; payment service providers; agent banking aggregators; mobile network operators; technology providers; fast moving consumer goods, agriculture and other companies; financial technology companies; and non-governmental organisations.

The applicants should outline how the project will improve access to finance and enhance operational efficiency for women-led enterprises.

Saroj Nepal, Nepal’s national programme coordinator at the United Nations Capital Development Fund, said the fund aimed to increase the reach of banks and financial institutions to remote and rural areas.

“Now, we can serve those left behind through digital technology,” he said. “Through this project, we will be providing financial access to women-led enterprises, especially in rural areas.”

Monisha Shrestha, fund mechanism officer at the United Nations Capital Development Fund, said the project had an opportunity to reach all targeted markets. Kavi Raj Joshi, co-founder and CEO of Next Venture Capital, said women were more trustworthy than men in terms of repayment, and they make better use of loans compared to males.

According to the fund, 45 per cent of micro- and small-enterprises in Asia and the Pacific have financial constraints to begin business. There is a finance gap of over $48 billion in these countries, the fund said.

Micro and small enterprises contribute about 38 per cent to Nepal’s GDP and employ more than 2.5 million people, the United Nations Capital Development Fund said. There are more than 183,000 registered micro- and small-enterprises in the country, among which 14,300 are women-led.

The fund started receiving applications on March 1, and the submission deadline is April 30. The applicants will be shortlisted on May 31 while the project will begin in July and end in July next year. THE KATHMANDU POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK