Our mission is to strategically grow and accelerate high-impact, high-growth businesses in Africa and these businesses include both women-led and men-led ventures. Having started our business growth journey in Kenya in 2009, we have now expanded to Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi and very recently Zambia. To ensure that we live out our mission in its fullness, we run a business acceleration programme where the entrepreneurs are equipped with business acumen skills that cut across finance, governance, business model, customer insights and value chain management.
In addition to the programme, the entrepreneurs are positioned to become investment ready while receiving strategic advice from our wide network of expert industry professionals. Integral to what we offer the entrepreneurs, we also have an Advisory arm where we provide the practical know-how, network and market insights required by companies to grow their African business.
This being the International Women’s Day month, we’d like to focus on how our programmes are improving the enabling environment for women. Our Acceleration Programme has worked with 127 ventures whose leadership teams are comprised of women and through the years, we have seen tremendous increase in the number of women entrepreneurs applying for our programme.
One of the companies we accelerated is Kwangu Kwako, whose Co-Founder, Winnie Gitau shared with us how they are directly empowering women. They provide an affordable and sustainable housing solution especially in the slum areas in Kenya. One of their impact stories is how two sisters bought 14 of the house units – the largest one time purchase – and by so doing they have increased their rental income by more than 30%. Ethiopia’s Run Africa, founded by Rekik Bekele is also nurturing and offering women and girls customised high-altitude training in running. Rekik has so far created 156 jobs since 2013 through this diversified career venture. We have Uganda’s Siki Kigongo and Linnet Akol founders of Amagara Skin care and Krystal Ice respectively, impacting Uganda’s economy through their ventures. Krystal Ice is providing a market channel to farmers in Uganda who supply them with fruits from which they create fruity ice pops. Amagara partners with local scientists to develop beauty products made from fruit, vegetables and other plant extracts that are affordable and safe for women.
We are also currently implementing the Growth Accelerator programme in Malawi in partnership with Mhub which has 50% female participation. The businesses in this programme have access to funding and equity investment as well as capacity building. In a recent round table discussion between UNDP’s Ms. Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu and the female entrepreneurs in the programme, the emerging themes were;
- Balancing domestic life and the pressures of entrepreneurship
- Overcoming externally-imposed growth limits
- Empowerment through being able to interact with like-minded females
- Opportunities for collaboration with other female entrepreneurs
- Subverting a male-dominated space i.e. entrepreneurship
As the implementing partner of Google.org’s Google Impact Challenge in Kenya, one key focus area was working with projects that can engage the youth and women. The Challenge was geared towards identifying 12 projects in the social entrepreneurship space concerned with their communities and how to improve the current conditions. Of the 12 finalists 9 of the companies were female-led. The goal of the programme is to offer post grant challenge phase, business development support to these 12 finalists in support of the funding received. This support is currently ongoing and entails, mentorship, peer to peer learning opportunities, tools and resources as well as Google volunteer support.
We are committed to continue accelerating female-led businesses and ensure that they too are economically empowered to also empower others.