They are changing the face of global businesses. Collectively, they control $20 trillion of worldwide spending. Of what they make, they reinvest ninety percent of their income in their families and communities. They are mothers, sisters and daughters. They are business owners. They are women—women who work and dream of better lives.  And in 2013, the financial commitment to grow those dreams was announced in Washington, D.C.

The Coca-Cola Company and IFC (International Finance Corporation), a member of the World Bank Group, are coming together in a $100 million, three-year joint initiative to provide access to financing for women entrepreneurs in Eurasia and Africa. The women business owners who will have access to this financing are 5by20 women entrepreneurs who own and operate small and medium sized businesses, such as micro-distribution centers (MDCs), across the Coca-Cola value chain. 5by20 is the Coca-Cola Company’s initiative to enable the economic empowerment of five million women across the company’s global value chain by 2020. IFC’s Banking on Women program will help address financial barriers those women entrepreneurs commonly face in some of the world’s poorest countries.

IFC signing

Coca-Cola and IFC Executives at Agreement Signing Event

Women at the Heart of Business

Many small to midsize retailers in emerging and developing markets are women-owned and operated.

Because many of those retailers are located in hard-to-reach communities, Coke relies on small, independently owned distributors or MDCs to deliver beverages to those local retailers.

MDC graphic

In studying how the MDCs work, Coke found that a high percentage of the distribution centers are owned by women.  Upon finding success, women, more than their male counterparts, reinvest their money and time back into building their businesses, families and communities.  It was this finding that in 2010 led Coke to launch 5by20, which helps women succeed as entrepreneurs by teaching business skills, providing access to financial services, assets and support networks of peers and mentors. 

Rosemary Njeri  is one of those entrepreneurs.  She originally launched her distribution business as a way of helping her husband and supporting her family. She started very small, but with the support of Coke, Njeri received training on stock keeping, book keeping and IT, and management training.  As a result, her distribution center has grown from 2 employees to 16 and her thriving business is the second largest of the 37 centers Coca-Cola supports in the urban region of Nairobi.  To date, 5by20’s innovative, experiential program has helped nearly 300,000 women entrepreneurs like Njeri get their businesses off the ground and thriving.

The Power of Partnerships

IFC is among many partners Coca-Cola collaborates with in its 5by20 initiative.  Signature global partner, UN Women leverages its reach and influence in promoting gender equality and economic empowerment through Coca-Cola’s value chain and business expertise.  Other key global partners include TechnoServe, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as many other regional NGOs Coca-Cola relies on to impact women throughout the world. Working with business, government and civil society partners to build businesses, communities and champion change is all part of Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent’s  “golden triangle” philosophy.  

Already work related to the new IFC partnership is beginning in Nigeria where Coca-Cola and IFC are working with Access Bank and Coca-Cola’s bottling partner, National Bottling Company of Nigeria to provide financing to women micro-distributors. “This joint initiative is an important step for 5by20 on our journey to reach 5 million women entrepreneurs,” said Charlotte Oades, global director of women’s economic empowerment. “Working with IFC, we are able to create opportunities for thousands of women across our Coca-Cola value chain. And although this work is beginning in Eurasia and Africa, we are exploring ideas for launching similar programs to benefit women in other regions.”

"Women entrepreneurs, who account for ownership of about 37% of small and medium sized businesses, are changing the face of the global economy, helping to sustain job creation and economic growth. However, all too often women, who already face societal and cultural barriers also find it more difficult than men to gain access to finance,” said Jin-Yong Cai, IFC CEO and EVP. “This innovative partnership with The Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 initiative will help us reach these underserved women through their value chain.”

In Africa, which is included in the joint initiative, the need for business financing is strong. Women own more than 800 MDCs and an additional 850 are co-owned by women. Of these small MDC businesses, more than 3,400 of them are employing upwards of 19,000 people directly.  These numbers are growing rapidly in North and West Africa, and particularly in Nigeria and Ghana, where women own more than 70 percent of the micro-distributors. And since 2009, more than half of all new MDCs created are owned and run by women.

Learn more about this initiative.

Read the full press release on this partner announcement.

Follow our 5by20 Infographic published in the Daily Beast.