Kigali International Financial Centre (KIFC) aims to empower women through investment and financial inclusion

By Hortense Mudenge, Chief Operations Officer of Rwanda Finance Limited

Last year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index report ranked Rwanda as first in Africa and sixth in the world for gender parity. At 82%, Rwanda also has one of the highest female labour force participation rates globally, with women comprising 41% of professional and technical workers. Furthermore, Rwanda has the highest proportion of women in parliament globally, with women holding 61.3% of seats in the lower house of parliament as of 2022, and the most women in ministerial positions.

Rwanda’s financial sector has traditionally been male dominated but recent years have seen a shift, with more women taking on leadership roles. In the banking industry, six of the 15 CEOs or MDs are women, representing 40%, while 29% of the Non-Executive Directors are women, and 31% of the Executive Management are women. However, the financial sector still needs more women leaders in other industries, such as insurance and pension, licensed non-deposit-taking financial institutions, forex bureaus, and microfinance institutions.

Having women in senior positions is essential for the growth and development of Rwanda’s financial sector. Women leaders bring diversity and a fresh perspective, leading to innovation and new ideas. They are also excellent role models and inspire other women to join the financial sector. 

Despite this, women in Africa still face greater financial barriers compared to men. Research indicates that women receive a lower percentage of investments in contrast to men, with 70% of women financially excluded and an estimated financing gap of over $42 billion between men and women on the continent. 

To address this gap, KIFC is placing greater focus on impact investment in line with its sustainable finance strategy, aiming to become a catalyst for more social impact investments in Africa.

KIFC aims to scale up and expand its efforts in this area by incentivising fund managers to relocate to Kigali, and therefore make their female-led investment decisions from Rwanda, closer to African investment opportunities. However, the main challenge for KIFC is to attract the right talent and skilled experts to continue supporting the growth of investors in female-focused impact investment.

KIFC has several initiatives in the pipeline. For example, we are currently in discussion with a network of female investors looking to scale up their investment in the region. Furthermore, KIFC members are creating an ESG strategy around female-focused investments, and the selection criteria for female-led businesses to receive investment from KIFC are currently in development by our members.

The KIFC ecosystem already provides a competitive environment for female-focused impact investments on the African continent, and KIFC connects female entrepreneurs and businesses to its ecosystem members that can provide support beyond financial investment. 

Unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs would have tangible economic benefits. 

The financial sector’s goal should be to support and promote female entrepreneurship in the region, not just through financial investment but also through mentorship, training, and networking opportunities.  

It is a positive reflection of the modernisation and progress we’ve already made over the last few years that it’s Rwanda and KIFC that are leading the way towards gender equality in investment and the financial sector here in Africa.