IFC and Ceylon Biscuits Limited to back women retailers in Sri Lanka

CBL Group Managing Director Sheamalee Wickramasingha and IFC Sri Lanka and Maldives Country Manager Amena Arif sign the partnership to develop and increase women in retail trade. Source: IFC Photo

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), said it has inked a partnership with Ceylon Biscuits Limited (CBL) Group to provide training and business development opportunities to strengthen and increase female participation in retail supply chains in Sri Lanka.

project will also focus on promoting digital payment methods among retailers and distributors and on improving efficiencies of the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) distribution chain.

CBL, a market leader in biscuits and confectionary products in Sri Lanka, and IFC will together train close to 5,000 distributors and retailers across the country, of which 30 percent will be owned or managed either by women or by the employees.

“We believe that this project will drive inclusive growth and help build a strong future-ready small and medium retail trade sector in the country,” CBL Group Managing Director Sheamalee Wickramasingha said.

Sri Lanka’s one million small and medium-sized enterprises–14 percent of them owned by women – are an engine of job creation, accounting for 80 percent of all businesses in the country.

The FMCG sector–worth 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and close to 20 percent of employment– relies on multi-brand distributors and retailers to reach consumers.

However, lack of business planning as well as ineffective financial and human capital management curtail the growth of these retailers and distributors, more so for women retailers and distributors, IFC said.

Traditionally, the retail trade environment is more male-dominated in Sri Lanka, making it difficult for more women to own or transform themselves from contributors to decision makers or owners, the development agency aid.

“Providing women retailers and distributors with a formal skillset to manage and operate businesses will help improve their development, increase their potential to succeed to the next level, and recognize their contribution,” said Amena Arif, IFC country manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives.

“This fits well with our country strategy, which seeks to promote financial inclusion and sustainable job creation for women entrepreneurs,” she said.

The project, part of the IFC-DFAT Women in Work Program, aims to double the number of women distributors and expects half of the participants to introduce a new business process as a result of the capacity building and training being provided.

In addition, 40 percent of the trained distributers are expected to utilize digital payment mechanisms by the end of the project. (Colombo/Dec17/2019)

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