The Inter-American Development Bank’s (IADB) Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) has recently approved a US$ 1,487,000 grant to the Chamber of Commerce of Santiago de Chile to promote the participation of women in business. It aims to further and support small and medium-sized enterprises headed by women entrepreneurs thereby creating a more prominent female presence in the business world. Svante Persson is the MIF Project Team Leader.
Svante Persson has guided and overseen the internal process of the participation of women in business in Chile from a project idea to the formal approval of the project at the MIF donor’s committee. He explained, “The first step of this process is to define the main components of the project, then select executing agencies and other partners and finally solve the issues and problems during the course of the planning and approval of the project.” In addition to Svante, the project team is composed of a gender expert as well as an expert on private sector development in Chile. After the project is approved, the MIF project team works closely with the Chamber of Commerce of Santiago, the main agency executing the project, throughout the three years of execution.
Svante shared, “The complexity of the project stems from having four co-executing agencies apart from the main agency, therefore much of the work entails dealing with the consensus building, as well as collaboration and coordination between the agencies.” Another challenge faced by the MIF team is that, despite Chile being a country among the most developed economies in the Latin American continent, many people do not view the low participation of women in business as a real and serious problem. “This is still untouched territory met with a lot of skepticism and prejudice so there was a lot of work trying to convince people that by solving the problem of the underutilized resource that these women represent the whole economy can actually benefit in the long run,” Svante stated.
A recent study done by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) in Chile found the growth of female entrepreneurs is on the rise, yet the problem faced in Chile is not the existence of female entrepreneurs but how women-led businesses grow and develop from microenterprises to dynamic small and medium enterprises. Svante asserted, “Women are very good at starting up, having ideas and working hard. The problem is the lack of networks, specific business development services, and general recognition in the society.” He added, “I think with more acceptance, exposure and gradual culture change, yes you will see more female led-businesses grow. As a result of this, women will progressively choose the type of academic education that brings out entrepreneurial skills and will ultimately be accepted into the private sector as entrepreneurs. It is a gradual change but you can already see the trend.”
Svante studied at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada before obtaining a Master’s Degree in Development Economics from Lund University in Sweden. After studying, he worked on governance issues and electoral participation in Latin America for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) based in Stockholm. This led him to a position with the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) at the Swedish Embassy in Nicaragua where he worked with democracy and governance as well as poverty related issues. He then moved to the SIDA Headquarters in Stockholm supporting democratic governance in Mozambique and Bolivia. From there he took the job as Trust Fund Coordinator at the IADB before moving to his current position at the MIF.
Svante hopes that the project will serve as a pilot project since it is the first project in the region that is supported by a multilateral organization promoting women entrepreneurs. He also asserted, “We will do more projects in other countries, extend our contacts with more organizations and see what we can learn from other regions in the world.” In the future Svante plans to continue working with poverty development issues, marginal groups in society and inequality in connection with private sector development. He also believes that a lot could be accomplished if gender entrepreneurship projects were more widely implemented in Africa.