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Blended Finance for Gender Equality Outcomes in Southeast Asia


  • Women have little access to and control over productive assets.
  • Capital+ model to de-risk impact investments into women’s SMEs
  • Structured blended finance instruments that in turn mobilized significant private capital
The Challenge

In developing countries, an estimated 70 percent of women-owned small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in the formal sector are under-served by financial institutions, creating a financing gap of $287 billion globally. In East Asia and the Pacific, this gap runs to $68 billion. Multiple layers of gender-based barriers conspire to restrict women’s access to credit from formal financial institutions. Traditional sources of financing are insufficient to narrow this gap, requiring innovative financing approaches to attract new sources of capital.

The Approach

An Australian government impact investing initiative managed by Abt Associates, Investing in Women, works with financial intermediaries to catalyze private capital for women’s SMEs.

Operating in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, the program addresses supply-side constraints of capital through:

  • Direct intervention in the market to support impact investors with blended finance instruments, and
  • Market building by advocating gender lens investing.

The program deployed several blended finance instruments to reduce risk in investments for women’s SMEs, including: first-loss facilities, debt, equity, mezzanine, investment syndicate, endowments, and revolving funds.

The Results

Thus far, the program has:

  • Seeded (with $28 million in funding) 11 investment vehicles and catalyzed follow-on funds (focused on gender outcomes) valued at more than $100 million.
  • Deployed investment capital into 35 women’s SMEs through the partner funds, expected to reach over 60+ investees by 2023.
  • Leveraged private sector capital of worth almost three times (2.7) the program’s original investment, surpassing leverage ratios achieved by development finance institutions (typically 0.8 times the investment) in blended finance.
  • Attracted co-investments of AUD12.8 million from non-private sources such as banks and other sources.
  • Served as a job-creation function, with the 35 invested businesses sustaining or creating quality jobs, over 1,793 of which are full-time (and 52 percent female) and 234 are part-time (and 65 percent female).

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