How did Kenya become a priority country for us?

Deepika Mailk, Head of Entrepreneurship at the Foundation, gives a short Q&A on how Kenya became one of our priority countries, and why

The Foundation will expand into Kenya in 2020 with our HerVenture app, as part of our new 100,000 Women Campaign. Deepika Mailk, our Head of Entrepreneurship, gives a short Q&A on how Kenya became one of our priority countries, and why.

1. What kinds of things do you analyse when looking to enter a new country?
The Foundation devises a list of priority countries based on the women entrepreneurship landscape, the need, the gap in the ecosystem, supportive external ecosystem, and our ability to make an impact on the growth of these businesses. Kenya is one of our top 10 priority countries, and the Foundation will focus its efforts on scaling and launching our work there in the next three years as part of our new strategy, in our 100,000 Women Campaign.

2. What does the current landscape look like in Kenya?
Women are vital to Kenya’s economy – research shows that they make up half of the workforce and own 49% of micro and small businesses, and yet only 9% of medium sized businesses are women owned. This suggests that women struggle to grow their enterprises beyond small scale. One of the largest factors of this is due to gender barriers, which have been proven to restrict all sizes of women’s businesses. In particular, women entrepreneurs in Kenya lack access to assets, credit, tailored services, finance, markets, networks, mentoring, information, and time (due to unpaid care roles in the family.

The Kenyan government is now actively supporting women’s business: they are setting aside 30% of procurement contracts for women, youth and those with disabilities. However, due to some of the challenges noted above, women are struggling to take up these opportunities. To address these challenges, women need tailored, accessible support so they can effectively start, grow and sustain their own businesses.

To add to this, women’s use of mobile phones as business tools in developing economies is dramatically increasing and could improve access to services. Kenya’s high mobile penetration and favourable external environment suggest tech-based solutions could support women at scale: according to current statistics, 82% of women have a mobile and 83% of internet access is via mobile.

3. Why is this landscape ideal?
The above analysis illustrates a need for more tailored support to women business owners, whilst also providing a case for scale due to large numbers of existing and potential women entrepreneurs within a very favourable external environment. High mobile penetration rates in these countries reiterate the potential of using technology and mobile based solutions to provide support to women owners of growing businesses in Kenya. This ties into the type of support the Foundation tends to offer women entrepreneurs, which is mostly delivered through technology.

4. What exactly are our upcoming plans for Kenya?
We are launching HerVenture in Kenya in the new year. HerVenture is a tailored micro learning app that delivers educational content to women business owners in the start-up and growth stages of their business, providing a cost-free way for women to receive broad based business management and financial literacy training. HerVenture is a wonderful tool and has helped a number of women entrepreneurs already; within the first year of its launch, the app supported more than 16,000 women entrepreneurs across Nigeria, Indonesia and Vietnam alone. We are hoping it will prove as successful in Kenya too.