Empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work is key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and reducing inequalities. Today’s woman is a strategist, a wife, a mother, a student, and a professional, all while handling the daily challenges of life with grace. Never needs women to juggle so many different roles been as prevalent as it is today.

Increasing the economic prospects for women has been recognized worldwide as a beneficial factor, not just for themselves, but for the benefit of their households, communities, and ultimately their countries. Providing women with greater economic empowerment effectively leads to increasing their right to economic resources and control over meaningful decisions.

Yet gender inequality remains rife in Sub-Saharan Africa with the region being the most unequal in the world. One area that could fast-track gender equality in the region is a targeted focus on supporting large-scale growth in the SMME sector. Africa needs large-scale job creation in the small enterprise sector, but due to the risky proposition of entrepreneurs and start-ups for credit providers, financing remains a challenge and many SMMEs fail within their first two years. According to a 2018 World Bank report, Africa is one of the regions where the opportunities for female entrepreneurs could have a powerful impact on Africa’s growth.

Anakazi Banking is a banking proposition launched by Stanbic Bank Zambia in 2017 to empower women entrepreneurs. By giving women increased access to capital, as well as capacity building through education and business mentorship, this solution was created to specifically address gender inequality.

Access to finance

Zambia was selected as the initial country to launch this program due to the high number of women participating in the workforce, set at 70% in 2017, according to the World Bank.  Added to this, Findex noted that in Zambia 29% of women over the age of 15 had an account at a formal financial institution, while only 12% of Zambian women aged 15 or older saved at a bank.

The opportunity to nurture inclusivity provided a compelling case to create a solution designed for women, by women, offering a bouquet of products and value-added services intended to improve the banking experience of every woman. From preferential banking to accounts linked to children’s savings products, health, and education, as well as life cover policies.

When more women work, economies grow. Women’s economic empowerment boosts productivity increases economic diversification and income equality, in addition to other positive development outcomes. Anakazi banking was designed for women to reward discerning women who reach for the stars and have the drive to turn their dreams into reality.

Access to capacity building activities

The Anakazi banking program also focuses capacity building activities for women entrepreneurs. The bank also serves women as individual customers, targeting students, civil servants, and women professionals in Personal Banking, Corporate, and Commercial Banking. Since the inception of the program in Zambia, Stanbic has empowered over 2000 women entrepreneurs through training programs and webinars, and these women have in turn paid it forward and empowered the communities that they operate in. The Bank has also reached over a 2.2milliion women through its Anakazi Online conversations which have seen the Bank’s Clients discuss their business challenges through the COVID-19 pandemic.

A beneficiary of the program commended Stanbic for the financial support the bank rendered to the business community, especially women-owned businesses. The platform provided her with invaluable financial knowledge and connections with other women in the business community. This has led to unlocking opportunities in the financial services space that previously would not have been accessible to her without the program. The learning and knowledge-sharing opportunities help women in business become more independent and unlock financial services, such as savings and credit.

As an organization, we have decided to be intentional in our focus on diversity and inclusion, with a specific focus on women. This is critical to closing gender gaps and building sustainable communities. We are embracing the complexity and are constantly going beyond to develop new products and services, as well as deliver tools and training that will challenge norms and encourage a positive change for women, and the future of work. Anakazi Banking is a success because it has been about the bank growing with its customers and being the financial support their enterprises need.