ILA Podcast

ShEquity: A Refugee’s Path to Empowering Women & Their Businesses

Innovating Leadership with ILA Fellow Maureen Metcalf

with Pauline Koelbl


Pauline Koelbl, AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO and ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner, joins Maureen to share ShEquity’s vision to close the gender funding gap in Africa by providing smart investment to female-led and owned businesses that aim for triple bottom line: financial, social and environmental return.

Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 requires bold actions that unlock the potential of local innovators/entrepreneurs and foster inclusive access to opportunities and financing, especially for women. According to McKinsey Global Institute, “closing the gender gap in the workforce could add a staggering $28 trillion to the global GDP”. In Africa, women operate over 40% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but there is a financing gap of $42 billion (in USD) between male and female entrepreneurs. Given that women reinvest about 90% of their revenue in sector/activities that benefit their families and societies, compared to about 40% for men, closing the gender funding gap is a win for everyone! 

Pauline shares her compelling story of refugee-turned-entrepreneur focused on female empowerment with host Maureen Metcalf.

Here’s what Pauline and Maureen cover:

  • How closing the gender gap in the workforce potentially adds $28 trillion to the global GDP;
  • Why, despite the stereotypes, refugees bring with them vast amounts of intellectual capital host countries tend to waste; and
  • Why women are the key to African (and other) nations fully realizing their economic potential.

About Pauline Koelbl

Pauline Koelbl is AfriProspect GmbH’s Founder and CEO as well as ShEquity’s Founder and Managing Partner, Pauline is a leading innovation expert in developing & emerging economies, impact investor and seasoned impact-driven team leader with over 20 years’ experience in international affairs and venture philanthropy. AfriProspect focuses on connecting African innovators with global markets, and ShEquity provides smart investment to impactful and scalable African female-led and owned businesses. Pauline also has 10+ years’ experience catalyzing innovation and entrepreneurship across Africa and her passion lies in innovation, entrepreneurship, youth, and women economic empowerment. A double Fulbright -Scholar and Fellow-, Pauline is currently serving on a variety of Boards of companies/organizations connected to business, entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa. Pauline holds an Executive Education in Innovation for Economic Development from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government; a Master’s Degree (MA) in Poverty and Development, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Studies (Honors) from the University of Arizona (UoA), USA. You can reach Pauline at

Host Maureen Metcalf

Maureen Metcalf

Maureen Metcalf, Founder and CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations. She has captured 30 years of experience in an award-winning series of books used by public, private, and academic organizations to align company-wide strategy, systems, and culture using Innovative Leadership techniques. 

Maureen shares her hard-won insights through public speaking, industry publications, interviews, and video presentations. She is a regular contributor to, host of the top international radio show, Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, and author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership book series. The series includes: Innovative Leadership FieldbookInnovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations; Innovative Leadership Workbook for Global Leaders; and Innovative Leadership for Health Care, among others.

She is a Fellow of the International Leadership Association.

About Innovating Leadership: Co-Creating Our Future

The pace of change in the world is increasing exponentially. Leadership must evolve. And that gets to the heart of our mission: To bring you the latest thoughts on leadership so you can innovate, learn, and evolve…growing your team, your business, and yourself! This series features a new interview every week. Host Maureen Metcalf interviews world leaders, global business and NPO executives, thought leaders, and researchers in a wide range of industries. It’s a breadth of perspectives unavailable anywhere else. Become an innovative leader in your own right! 

Innovating Leadership is proud to partner with the International Leadership Association on a yearly series of episodes on global leadership with special ILA speakers, members, and guests. 

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