While President Trump lays out a foreign policy agenda based on nationalism and "America First" principles, his daughter Ivanka has taken a different worldview.
Three months ago Ivanka Trump stood next to her father and other world leaders at the G20, announcing a plan to bring $1 billion to help women entrepreneurs in emerging markets. The media and the development world scorned, calling it a naked bid for good press and an attempt by world leaders, especially those in Saudi Arabia, to curry favor with the American president through his daughter's pet project.
The World Bank quickly downplayed Ivanka's role, and it's unclear how involved she remains. After Ivanka met with Arab women entrepreneurs, money from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seeded the initiative. But the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative — or We-Fi, as it's called — has spread, with about a dozen other countries, donating a total of $325 million to the financing facility that launched on October 12 to provide funding to women-owned enterprises.
But now We-Fi is emerging as an innovative attempt to spur private investment in women's enterprises in countries around the world. There are already signs that insurance companies, venture capitalists and private equity funds are looking more seriously at investing and designing products with an emphasis on including women. The new managing partner at the Abraaj Group's $1.6 billion impact investment arm, Kito de Boer, for instance, said it is considering launching a fund focused on diversity.
Ivanka's goals seem to contradict President Trump's. In March he said he wants to cut off the spigot that has helped fund many micro ventures around the world: a little-noticed federal agency called OPIC that is a backstop lender for community banks in developing countries.
"This World Bank fund is very important because it cuts through the politics and diplomacy," said Sofana Dahlan, a Saudi lawyer, entrepreneur and government official who met with Ivanka in Saudi Arabia. "A lot of countries do refrain from helping Saudi women, because they don't want to be politically incorrect."
Ivanka, Dahlan said, may have seized a rare moment when the Saudi government was open to change. "Saudi Arabia welcomed the idea. It's very important to act on it right away."
We-Fi — which appears to have rapidly folded in some ideas that the World Bank has been studying and experimenting with for the past five years — is different from other financing initiatives for women.
While most programs for women have focused on grants and low-interest loans, We-Fi is making the money available for equity investments — meaning venture capital and private equity funds will be able to tap into it — and insurance products. That may give big insurers an incentive to develop products for women in emerging markets.