This exciting initiative consists of two components: our award-winning business skills app HerVenture—available to Kenyan women now—and our intensive, online 7-week investment readiness training programme Road to Growth, brought to Kenya for the first time thanks to our new partnership with DHL Express and Sinapis. This builds on out successful pilot of HerVenture in Kenya last year, which was met with a target-breaking uptake and wide praise as over 1,250 women entrepreneurs used it to achieve growth and protect their businesses against the impacts of the pandemic.
The Foundation’s founder, Cherie Blair CBE QC, announced the launch today in an interview with journalist Anne Kiguta:
This enhanced support comes at a crucial time: we recently released our 2020 annual audit of research on women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries, drawing on responses from women across 32 countries including Kenya. The research report illustrates the stark impacts of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs and other major barriers they face—such as gender stereotypes, legal challenges and lack of access to finance. Nearly four in ten (38.5%) women report their business will or may have to close as a result of the pandemic, potentially spelling disaster for children, families and staff. The report makes clear that targeted, urgent action and support is needed.
But where there is disruption, there is also opportunity. Investing in women entrepreneurs plays a crucial role in supporting Kenya’s 2030 vision of becoming a middle income nation by 2030, yet while 49% of micro and small businesses are women-owned only 9% of medium sized enterprises are, suggesting they find it difficult to scale. Furthermore, sub-Saharan African economies lose nearly $100 billion a year because of the gender gap in the labour market. Now, during a global economic crisis, it makes more sense than ever to take action to close that gap.
Recognising both the potential threat and the potential opportunity, through HerVenture and Road to Growth we provide the support needed for women in Kenya to not only protect their micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, but to transform them into thriving and sustainable businesses.
Following last year’s pilot, HerVenture is currently available to Kenyan women entrepreneurs on iOS through the App Store and Android via the Google Play Store, where it has a 5-star rating. So far, the app has been downloaded by and provided training to over 1,250 women in Kenya, spelling huge benefits to families, local communities and the economy. Now, through Sinapis, HerVenture will be actively promoted to more women across the country with a target of at least 3,500 new users.
Later this year, Road to Growth will support 200 women entrepreneurs—most of whom will be progressing from using HerVenture, as a “next step” in their entrepreneurial journey—to work more intensively to build business skills, financial literacy, networks and confidence via online learning and coaching. Road to Growth has already benefited women in Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia and Vietnam. The Foundation is working to scale further across sub-Saharan Africa.
With HerVenture currently available in Nigeria, Indonesia and Vietnam as well as Kenya, reaching tens of thousands of users, the Foundation and DHL are also delighted to be launching the app in South Africa for the first time later this year. With a target of at least 1,600 South African woman entrepreneurs using it to grow their businesses, the app spells great things for economies across Africa.
Through the Road to Growth programme, I have learned to position my business better, communicate with my target audience, and get their attention [...] I have an academy where I teach textile designing, and COVID-19 affected our classes. But thanks to what I learned from Road to Growth, I was able to move my class online.