Graça Machel who is renowned as an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights is in Kenya to amplify a funding initiative known as Invest2Impact.
The African stateswoman acknowledged that there are still many challenges that entrepreneurs face and this is why the Graça Machel Trust was formed.
“Empower a woman and a whole community will thrive, empowering women benefits everyone and is essential for communities to thrive. Research shows that increasing women’s involvement leads to improved financial management and more sustainable, thriving communities,” she said during the launch of Invest2Impact.
Invest2Impact is an entrepreneur competition targeting women-led businesses and in its pilot phase will focus on 100 participants from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.
According to Mrs. Machel, the decision to focus on women entrepreneurs was made because of the significant contribution that they make to their economies.
She noted that these enterprises, if allowed to achieve their full growth potential, can contribute to employment growth, enhanced regional trade, and spur more activity amongst budding entrepreneurs.
“Through our numerous engagements with women across the continent at the GraçaMachel Trust, we have witnessed the rise of African women who are not content running businesses for subsistence purposes only.
“Some are venturing into sectors that are traditionally male-dominated where their numbers are still small; some are bent on improving their technical knowledge and capacity to tackle even greater challenges impacting the business landscape; and some are engaging in regional trade to maximise their growth potential. The female segment cannot be generalised as ‘niche’ or ‘predictable’,” Mrs. Machel said.
EXISTING WAVE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Graça Machel Trust is celebrating 10 years of working with women across Africa and as part of the fete, have partnered with FinDev Canada and other finance institutions from the U.K., France and U.S. for Invest2Impact.
“We want to bridge the gap between women entrepreneurs and funders or investors and help them showcase their work. We will enter into a relationship with them that will go beyond winning the prize money. The event finale will be the beginning of our journey with them as we connect them to other global partners through crowd funding and expo opportunities,” said Stephanie Emond, FinDev Canada Director.
“There is an existing wave of entrepreneurship in East Africa and we want to support women-led businesses leverage on this,” she added.
According to Andia Chakava, an Investment Director, the Invest2Impact competition is not just about the final prize but the experience that the community will get through the women-owned businesses that receive the funding.
“We have created networks across the continent that aim to change the narrative about women-owned businesses. We hope that through the mobilization process the world will see all the innovative businesses that women in Africa have come up with. We want a new narrative to be written about how to finance women in business,” she said.
Ms. Chakava further noted that a lot of women operate their businesses on digital platforms such as WhatsApp groups and finance institutions must take this into consideration in their messaging.
Youth, even those in school, also form a big part of upcoming businesses, she said, adding that though they may be in ideation phase, they have a huge potential to change the narrative.
The investment director also noted that without trust and an existing relationship with women entrepreneurs, funding and networking gaps will continue to exist in the African continent.
Liz Akuku, an entrepreneur and founder of Liku by Squeezie that sells skincare products, affirmed that gender funding gaps are the biggest challenge for women-led businesses.
“Financial institutions need to really have conversations with those of us in different markets as opposed to offering generalised funding.
“The Invest2Impact initiative is not a one-size-fits-all strategy and because the organisers work and walk with the entrepreneur, it stands out for those of us looking to take part in it,” she told Citizen Digital adding that entreprises in Kenya are ripe for investment
Women entrepreneurs who participate in Invest2Impact will be categorised into four “tracks”: 2Xcelerate, 2Xcrowd, 2Xcapital and 2Xcatalyse.
2Xcelerate is targeting women-led businesses that support or are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
25 finalists will compete for cash prizes of Ksh.8,749,900 ($85,000), recognition at a gala winner’s event and participation in the Invest2Impact funding readiness program.
GLOBAL CROWDFUNDING SUPPORT
This track designed for revenue-positive businesses seeking sizeable investment, usually over Ksh.308,700,000 ($3million).
For the 2Xcrowd track, 25 businesses will receive customised, tailored support and mentorship to implement an Africa or global crowdfunding strategy.
2Xcapital will see 25 applicants who are selected from the Invest2Impact participants benefit from access to funding programs. It is targeting smaller businesses that seek funding less than Ksh.308,700,000 ($3million).
In the final category dubbed 2Xcatalyse, 25 female entrepreneurs will be selected to attend a major international expo, conference or event in their industry sector with sponsored travel, attendance fees and promotional material.
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