Sri Lanka’s Combank to target financial products for women with IFC

ECONOMYNEXT – Commercial Bank of Ceylon, Sri Lanka’s largest private bank by assets, will offer financial products designed for women and women owned businesses backed by Washington-based International Finance Corporation.

“Sri Lankan women are recognized as highly entrepreneurial, owning nearly a quarter of the micro, small and medium sized enterprises in the country,” IFC said.

“Most are micro-sized enterprises, with the number of women owned business falling drastically as the business size increases.

“While over 80 percent of women have an account at a financial institution, only 17 percent have borrowed money.”

IFC said it will help Commerical Bank develop specially-designed products and services for women, especially those who own small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).

The advisory assistance to ComBank comes from IFC’s Banking on Women (BOW) program, which is supported by the government of Australia under the IFC-DFAT Women in Work program. It comes as Coronavirus crisis is hurting businesses.

“This engagement becomes even more critical as the world faces an unprecedented crisis straining public health system and constraining economic activity,” Rosy Khanna, Regional Director for Financial Institutions Group for IFC Asia and the Pacific said.

“Therefore, it becomes even more vital that we scale up access to finance for women and women-led small and medium sized enterprises, who will bear the brunt of this ensuing liquidity crisis.

S Renganathan, Chief Executive Officer of ComBank said the bank had previously led several initiatives to boost access to female entrepreneurs and new partnership will broaden their horizons further.

“…[W]e also hope that this will send a strong signal to other financial institutions in the market on the significance of increased and improved access to financial services as a means of bridging a critical gap in the country,” Khanna said.

IFC said one million small and medium enterprises of which 14 percent were women owned had generated 2.25 million jobs and contributed 52 percent to gross domestic product.

But over 30 percent of SMEs have unmet financing needs, with a financing gap estimated at 13.7 billion dollars.

In June, IFC invested $100 million in ComBank, 50 million US dollars through IFC’s 8 billion US dollar COVID-19 fast track financing facility, and another 50 million dollars through a private placement of shares.(Colombo/July14/2020)