Conversations and collaboration in Kenya
Hayley Matthews and Elizabeth Wells share insights from their recent trip to Nairobi.
Following their recent trip to Kenya, our Head of Programme Funding, Hayley Matthews, and Head of Entrepreneurship, Elizabeth Wells, share their insights and learnings.
We’ve just returned from a busy and productive week in Nairobi, meeting with a diverse range of organisations dedicated to supporting women owned micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive. As ever, the highlight of our trip was connecting with some of the incredible women entrepreneurs who’ve been participating in our HerVenture, Road to Growth, Road to Leadership and Mentoring Women in Business programmes.
Building on Progress and identifying gaps
Since launching in Kenya in 2020 we’re proud to have reached almost 14,000 women. As we contemplate how to build on this progress, we wanted to understand where the gaps in support lie in supporting women-led businesses in the ecosystem, and how we can have the greatest impact. Some key themes emerged from our conversations:
Promoting women’s leadership and storytelling
The need to expand access to women’s leadership trainings and to support women entrepreneurs to tell their stories emerged as a consistent theme in discussions. These skills can not only empower women to advocate for themselves in their businesses and daily lives, but also transform them into powerful role models – motivating and inspiring others to start their entrepreneurial journey and challenging the persistent gender stereotypes that undermine their success. Women told us about the realities of navigating negative gender norms in their daily lives – struggling to be taken seriously by banks, by men they encounter in business and by family and friends who say their time is better spent at home. This is a theme we hear from women across the globe. It was also clear from the conversations that there’s appetite among stakeholders to come together for coordinated action to tackle the difficult issues and it seems some consensus that platforming women’s stories, and highlighting male allies, is a powerful way to approach this.
Women told us about the realities of navigating negative gender norms in their daily lives – struggling to be taken seriously by banks, by men they encounter in business and by family and friends who say their time is better spent at home.
Supporting women-owned MSMEs to access new markets
We’ve been hearing from the women we work with that they would like more assistance to access new markets and this also came out clearly as a need in conversations with the women and business support organisations we met with. Our conversations revealed that one of the reasons this is such a challenging issue to address, is because support looks different depending on a variety of factors such as where she is in her business, whether she sells a product or a service, her business growth ambitions, whether she is an e-commerce businesses…the variability can go on. There are also challenges relating to cash flow to fulfil orders, maintaining quality as a business grows, access to information, logistics to support e-commerce as well as an array of practicalities around other online business operations.
Insights from Muna Elmi, Woman Entrepreneur about the challenge of accessing markets: We also heard from Muna Elmi, a woman entrepreneur who has participated in the Foundation’s programmes in Kenya, and joined us in a panel discussion we hosted with women from our programmes and our partners DHL. Muna shared with us her insights into the challenges women face in accessing markets:
- Market research and understanding new markets: Entering a new market requires comprehensive knowledge and research to understand the target audience, local competition, cultural differences, and legal and regulatory frameworks. A lack of accurate information can lead to misinformed decisions and potential failure.
- Building relationships with local partners: Relationships with local partners, and distributors is crucial for a successful market entry but there is a lack of matchmaking support with potential partners.
- Complying with local laws, regulations, and licensing: Navigating these laws and regulations can be a bureaucratic challenge.
- Lack of access to Capital and investment: Having the right funding is essential to helping a business expand and and meet the demand for new markets.
Addressing the Challenges Together
Reflecting on our conversations, our main take away is that meaningful, coordinated collaborations between business support organisations, banks, private sector, and government are key to making any real progress on the persistent and multi-layered challenges that women face. These partnerships are also key to mobilising the resources required to make significant change happen. We’ve met many other fantastic organisations and individual women who are also deeply committed to tackling these issues – the challenge is how best to come together for the greatest impact. Our new Ready for Business strategy seeks to explore how Cherie Blair Foundation for Women can makes its contribution through transforming our partnerships to scale and amplify our reach to address the challenges that women face. We’ve come back full of motivation to double down on this approach to help make change happen.
If you’d like to learn more about our work and how to partner with us – please get in touch! Together we can champion women’s business leaders, amplify their voices, and create an environment that enables women’s businesses to flourish.
Our main take away is that meaningful, coordinated collaborations between business support organisations, banks, private sector, and government are key to making any real progress on the persistent and multi-layered challenges that women face.
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