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Invest in Women, Invest in South Sudan’s Future: A Banker’s Perspective

By Lorna Mwangi


As we commemorate International Women’s Month, it’s an opportune time to shine a spotlight on the extraordinary women of South Sudan, particularly those who are driving our economic progress as entrepreneurs.

Globally, women entrepreneurs face formidable challenges, contributing only 37% of the global GDP despite comprising half of the world’s population. Here in South Sudan, women represent over half – a staggering 51.5% – of our population.  Yet, despite their numerical strength, the literacy rates for women remain dishearteningly low at around 27%, compared to 40% for men. Moreover, while women own a majority (63%) of SMEs in South Sudan, only 5% have access to credit and loans, hampering the growth and development of women-led enterprises. This stark reality underscores a critical gap that limits not only their professional advancement but also their personal empowerment.

However, women are not just a significant force in our nation; they are the very bedrock upon which our society is built. Recognizing this, Stanbic Bank is committed to addressing the challenges faced by women in South Sudan. As advocates for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those focused on poverty alleviation, economic empowerment, and gender equality, we understand that empowering women economically is not just a moral imperative but also strategically aligned with global efforts for a sustainable future.

To bridge the financial inclusion gap for women, Stanbic Bank has forged a ground- breaking partnership with UN Women, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and African Development Bank (AfDB) with support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports to establish a Revolving Fund to women and youth led businesses in South Sudan. This financing facility, the first model of its kind, is currently one of the largest credit programs dedicated to women and youth entrepreneurs in the country – providing crucial capital and capacity-building support to sole proprietors, micro and small enterprises, village savings and loan associations (VSLAs), and cooperatives across South Sudan.

However, financial inclusion alone is insufficient. Market access is equally vital. Recently, Stanbic Bank collaborated with Sip & Shop Juba, UN Women and Jhpiego to host a successful Women’s Day Pop-Up Market, providing a platform for female vendors to showcase their products, network with customers, learn from other entrepreneurs, and boost their sales – essential elements for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At Stanbic Bank, we firmly believe that investing in women is not just sound economics; it’s a strategic move for a brighter future. We go beyond traditional banking by engaging in community programs that offer mentorship and financial literacy workshops, business capacity building, digital literacy training and access to markets thereby empowering women with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities they need to succeed. Additionally, we collaborate with international NGO’s and local entities to enhance capacity-building programs targeting women and youth.

The impact of empowering women entrepreneurs extends far beyond individual success; it uplifts entire communities. When women thrive, their families flourish. They invest in their children’s education, ensuring a skilled workforce for the future, and prioritize healthcare, fostering a healthier community. Moreover, women’s economic empowerment directly contributes to environmental sustainability efforts.

As we celebrate International Women’s Month, let us not confine our support to this designated period but continue to do so continue to do so throughout the year. I urge everyone to join Stanbic Bank in championing gender diversity and advocating for inclusive financial services through meaningful partnerships.

Together, we can dismantle barriers and unleash the full potential of women in South Sudan, paving the way for a more prosperous and equitable future for all.

The author is the Head of Corporate Investment Banking at Stanbic Bank South Sudan

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