Achieving SDGs through Entrepreneurship + Innovation: Financial Inclusion for Women + Youth
Powered by United Nations Industrial Development Organization – Investment and Technology Promotion Office in Bahrain and the Arab International Center for Entrepreneurship + Investment (UNIDO ITPO / AICEI-Bahrain)
In an effort to meet the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, economic empowerment is a crosscutting issue of importance for achieving all the SDGs; thus taking a leading significant positive impact on sustained economic growth and sustainable industrial development, which in turn are drivers of poverty reduction and social integration. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) says achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will take between US$5 to $7 trillion, with an investment gap in developing countries of about $2.5 trillion.
Thus, economic growth required for the eradication of poverty and the achievement of the other associated SDGs depends on technical change and capital accumulation (investment). Therefore, in order to attain growth, developing countries and those with economies-in-transition need to mobilize investment – both domestic and foreign – as well as modern technologies in order to expand their productive assets and meet the Sustainable Development Investment Gap.
While financing is the driver behind investment and entrepreneurs; with that being said access to finance and developing the right effective financial tools to services entrepreneurs becomes a crucial component; as traditional banking practices are not fully geared towards achieving financial inclusion. Keeping into consideration that Financial inclusion, as per the World Bank, means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.
Accordingly, financial inclusion intends to increase awareness about the benefits of financial services among the economically underprivileged sections of the society and in the case of the MENA Region these represent women and youth. Hence, the process of financial inclusion works towards creating financial products that are suitable for the less fortunate people of the society.
In line with the above, the MENA Region is mainly characterized by predominantly being a young population with an average of 60% below the age of 29 years. Power struggles, tensions, and conflicts lead to poverty, instability, migration and conflict. Coupled with this and based on the financial inclusion index published by the World Bank the MENA Region scores very low. With this; the way forward to resolve this vicious circle is in economic development leading to prosperity for all. This can only be achieved through developing public – private partnerships that are governed by the rule of law and good governance and that emphasis Impact Investing which will create a trickle-down effect; thus, economically empowering women and youth will have its positive effect on the individual, the family, society, community and eventually the economy.
Further to the above, the adoption of well proven best practices as the Bahrain Model becomes an essential component in achieving success, which encompasses capacity building, business counselling/ mentoring; financial linkages, incubation / acceleration and finally growth programs.