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IFC looks to empower women through phone program

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The Village Phone program is aimed at empowering women (Image: File photo)

The International Finance Corporation, a World Bank Group member, announced on Thursday a new initiative to help empower women in Africa. According to a press statement from the IFC, the new Village Phone program has already assisted in providing credit to over 6,000 women and has been instrumental in training some 10,000 in order to set up phone service businesses in Madagascar, Malawi and Nigeria.

The goal, the IFC said, is to increase the “economic participation of women in some of Africa’s most rural communities.”

Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, participated as special guest speaker at a ceremony at IFC’s headquarters, where the program received the Annual IFC CEO Gender Award for outstanding achievement in promoting women in business.

The ceremony was attended by representatives from governments, women’s organizations, and the media. “IFC is doing a remarkable job by increasing access to finance for women entrepreneurs, reducing gender-based barriers in the investment climate, and improving sustainability in the private sector,” said Blair.

IFC’s Village Phone Program links large telecom operators with African entrepreneurs who sell airtime on the companies’ networks to people in their local communities.

The relationship brings rural villagers access to telephone services, local entrepreneurs the means to build an income-generating business, and participating telecoms companies a way to expand their reach. IFC launched the program in Nigeria in 2007, and expanded it to Madagascar and Malawi the following year.

By Desmond Shephard

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