A Lagos-based microfinance loan solutions company that disbursed more than half of its loans to women-led micro and small enterprises last year, has been named the “Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) Bank of the Year” at the African Business Awards ceremony.

The annual ceremony celebrating excellence in the continent’s banking sector, took place on Wednesday 24 May during the African Development Bank Group’s Annual Meetings in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

The Leshego Microfinance Bank Nigeria, also known as Letshego MFB Nigeria, received the award named after the African Development Bank’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) programme.

AFAWA seeks to close the estimated $42 billion finance gap for women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by unlocking up to $5 billion of financing for over 30,000 women business owners in Africa.

“We are delighted because our purpose is to Improve Lives of our customers by creating financial access and accelerating financial inclusion by providing creative funding for micro and small entrepreneurs in the region. [Being named AFAWA Bank of the Year] will enhance our brand positioning and increase trust and our reputation with women-led businesses,” said Richard Tyotule, Head of Sales and Distribution at Letshego MFB Nigeria.

In partnership with the African Guarantee Fund and the African Development Bank, the AFAWA Bank of the Year Award honours banks advancing the financial inclusion of women across the continent.

Letshego MFB Nigeria is part of the Guarantee for Growth programme, administered by AFAWA and its partner, the African Guarantee Fund. Amongst other activities, the programme de-risks women portfolios of partner financial institutions, and incentivises financial institutions playing a greater role in supporting private-sector growth through women entrepreneurs. 

Participation in the program has increased Letshego MFB Nigeria’s appetite to do business with women-led businesses, Tyotule said.

Letshego MFB Nigeria’s original guarantee line was $3.5 million: Leshego MFB Nigeria leveraged that guarantee line to offer an additional $1.5 million in loans to clients. Cumulatively the bank says it disbursed about $5 million of loans — and out of this amount they disbursed $2 million to women-led SMEs in less than one year.

Letshego MFB Nigeria said that it disbursed 63% of its 5,115 loans to women-led micro and small enterprises (3,241 women-owned/entrepreneurs) in less than a year. Letshego increased its uptake of loans by women from 25% in 2020 to 51% in 2022.

This year’s award ceremony is a testament not only to the vibrancy and dynamism of Africa’s banking industry but also its increasing diversity

In her remarks, African Development Bank Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development Dr Beth Dunford said “Through AFAWA, and with partners like the African Guarantee Fund, the Bank was helping financial institutions realise that financing Africa’s women-led start-ups isn’t charity work – it is “good business”.

“We believe that supporting Africa’s women-led businesses and catalysing private investment are crucial for inclusive African economic transformation,” Dr Dunford added.

African Guarantee Fund’s Group Chief Executive Officer Jules Ngankam said their aim was to provide a holistic solution by reinforcing human and financial capital, so that women entrepreneurs could fully contribute to the growth of our continent.

“In addition to the AFAWA Guarantee for Growth, we also provide tailored technical assistance to our partner financial institutions to develop their women SME lending portfolios,” Ngankam said.

More than 300 of the continents’ leading bankers, regulators and policymakers attended the African Banker Awards, now in its 17th edition. Another highlight of the evening was African Development Bank head Dr Akinwumi Adesina presenting the award for “Finance Minister of the Year.”

As the music played after Adesina announced the winner, both he and Honouree Enoch Godongwana, South Africa’s Minister of Finance, took a moment to dance to the beat before Adesina handed over the award.

Bank Secretary General Professor Vincent Nmehielle presented an award to Afreximbank for being named “Africa Bank of the Year.”

“This year’s award ceremony is a testament not only to the vibrancy and dynamism of Africa’s banking industry but also its increasing diversity,” said Omar Ben Yedder, Committee Chairman and Group Publisher at IC Publications, publishers of African Banker

Letshego Microfinance Bank Nigeria, in Lagos, is part of the larger Letshego Group. The Letshego Group is an African multinational, first opening its doors in Botswana more than 21 years ago by offering loans to government employees. 

Today the Group employs more than 3,000 people and operates in 11 sub-Saharan African markets including Nigeria.

AFAWA is supported by various development partners including the G7 countries (France, Canada, Italy, Germany and the European Commission), the Netherlands, Sweden, and the Women Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative (We-Fi) of the World Bank Group.

: Giles Aijukweb, representing Leshego Microfinance Bank Nigeria accepts the AFAWA Bank of the Year award from Malado Kabba, African Development Bank’s Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society (1)

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