Figures of the week: African countries implement reforms to increase women’s access to credit

Last week, the World Bank released its biennial Women, Business, and Law report, which documents the legal barriers faced by women at work and in business and highlights reforms implemented by countries around the world. The report scores countries across seven indicators such as building credit, incentives to work, access to institutions, and protection from violence, among others. In general, as Figure 1 shows, sub-Saharan Africa performs similarly to East Asia and Pacific, and South Asia, receiving its highest score in “access to institutions.” This indicator measures the equality of women in legal systems, marriage and family decisions, and freedom in movement. The region also implemented the most reforms over the past two years, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia among the world’s top five countries implementing reforms.

Figure 1: Regional scores on Women, Business, and the Law indicators


Notably, 32 percent of all reforms in sub-Saharan Africa occurred in the “building credit” indicator, which is also where the region scores worst. This indicator measures equal treatment in accessing credit and financial services based on gender and marital status.

Some of the key reforms included changes in the DRC’s family code to increase financial and legal access for married women. Other countries such as Botswana, Malawi, and Lesotho, increased access to credit information for women. Angola and Guinea also introduced laws banning discrimination based on gender when accessing financial services. These reforms should help female entrepreneurs gain access to more credit and potentially help narrow the gender gap in formal financial access in sub-Saharan Africa.

The region already has high levels of female entrepreneurship, ranking second behind Latin America and Caribbean in early stage entrepreneurial activity as seen in the figure below from the Foresight Africa 2018 report. Notably, as the figure shows, women in Africa cite necessity as a motivation most often, after women in Latin America and Caribbean.

Figure 2: Sub-Saharan African women have high rates of entrepreneurship