Women-owned businesses present a substantial yet largely untapped market for financial institutions targeting micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Fiji, according to an assessment conducted by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Women’s Finance Exchange.

The assessment notes that women-owned MSMEs (WMSMEs), which account for 19 percent of the MSMEs in Fiji, have an unmet credit demand of US$111 million. This credit gap comprises an unmet demand for formal credit of US$75 million and a potential demand of US$36 million from the informal sector.

“While there are commendable credit initiatives that target women, there is plenty of room for private sector financial institutions to take a strategic and gender-intelligent approach to serve women entrepreneurs,” said ADB Pacific Subregional Office Regional Director Aaron Batten.

“ADB’s report reveals a large untapped opportunity for financial institutions in Fiji to expand their support for businesses owned and run by women in ways that benefit the wider economy. Research shows that women-owned businesses are reliable borrowers, have high customer loyalty, and have low loan defaults,” said ADB Director General for Private Sector Operations Suzanne Gaboury said.

“One step forward is to support informal small businesses run by women in registering and applying for financing. Financial institutions should also analyse customer data by gender to understand what financing opportunities they might be overlooking.”
The assessment looks at the MSME landscape in Fiji, including the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs, and the business case for financial institutions in addressing these barriers. It offers several recommendations for the financial inclusion of women entrepreneurs.

It recommends financial institutions should consider women’s smaller sales turnover when segmenting MSMEs to ensure inclusion; collect sex-disaggregated MSME data to guide business case and decisions; identify key performance indicators to understand and serve the customer better; and conduct market research to understand the barriers WMSMEs face in accessing finance. It further recommends financial institutions to diversify into WMSME economic sectors, leverage the informal sector, and forge partnerships with like-minded institutions to provide digital and financial literacy to WMSMEs and build their business and financial management skills.