Empowering women in business is a catalyst for economic prosperity

Women traders at the Kisauni road in Mombasa in this picture taken on November 28, 2017. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • It also shows a clear nexus between SDGs 5 and 10 and the economic well-being and prosperity of nations.
  • Private sector has a pivotal role to play in this regard by empowering women.

In September 2015, the international community adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda.

The goals, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include ensuring gender equality and reducing inequalities.

Realisation of SDG 5 on gender equality and SDG 10 on reducing inequalities is critical to ending poverty and achieving prosperity for all including women.

Countries must therefore re-think their economic models to ensure that women play a greater role in the economy.


A report by the Mckinsey Global Institute in 2015 revealed that advancing women’s equality can add up to $12 trillion to global annual GDP by 2025. This is testimony that women empowerment is more than a homily for gender equality.

It also shows a clear nexus between SDGs 5 and 10 and the economic well-being and prosperity of nations.

Ensuring women are empowered economically has profound implications for communities and nations. To quote former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when women participate in the economy, everyone benefits.

This is because women who earn an income are powerful agents of development as they invest in the health, education and well-being of their families.

However, women often bear the brunt of economic discrimination. A recent report by the United Nations titled Progress of the World’s Women 2015-2016 shows that women earn 24 per cent less than men.


Yet women are drivers of economic growth but are often hindered by structural barriers – social, legal, cultural, political – from participating.

Redressing this situation demands elimination of barriers to women’s economic progress. This is not the mandate of governments and civil society only. Public, private and social sectors must act in concert in narrowing gender gaps in business, economy and society at large.

Private sector has a pivotal role to play in this regard by empowering women to participate in business and the economy.

Private enterprises, large and small, employ a sizeable proportion of labour in any country. Moreover, their value chains have significant impact on individuals, communities and economies. We can leverage such value chains to empower women and thus transform communities.

This entails a dual approach where companies empower women within the core business by nurturing managers in senior leadership and decision-making, and ensuring access by women to their value chains as producers, suppliers, distributors, retailers and, of course, consumers.


The SDGs permeate every decision we make as a business. For instance, in embracing SDG 10 on reducing inequalities, Safaricom is championing an initiative to diversify its supplier database as well as build capacity for women owned businesses.

Our goal is to increase spending on women-owned businesses partnering with Safaricom from the current 2.7 per cent of the overall value chain to 10 per cent by 2020 and 15 per cent by 2030.

Our vision is to entrench inclusive procurement practices within Safaricom. Our mission is to grow the capacity of Kenyan women business owners to be market ready to access competitive local and global supply chains.

Safaricom has also partnered with the Women in Business initiative spearheaded by the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Through this partnership, we have increased the number of women vendors in our procurement ecosystem from 27 in February to 47 today.

Though the number is still low, we are scaling up our engagement with Kenyan women entrepreneurs to not only grow the number of vendors and suppliers but also the spend value flowing to their businesses.


As part of capacity building, Safaricom has this year alone trained 75 partners and held two workshops for women in business.

We intend to organise more of these in the coming months not just in Nairobi and the big towns but also targeting all counties.

Safaricom is currently rolling out a strategy that has seen us open regional offices in all parts of the country.

Through this expanded footprint we hope to reach out to more women in business.

We must not forget the many inspirational women doing big things in the remotest parts of our country.

As a firm believer in empowering others to actualize their true potential, I would strongly urge other companies and the private sector as a whole to play a more visible role in empowering women in business, by opening up their value chains to participation by women and creating equal opportunities for women in their management hierarchies.

Global trends show that companies that empower women generally perform better in terms of growing market share, attracting talent and generating revenue and profits.

In a nutshell, women empowerment is a powerful tool with which to forge economic prosperity for all.

We must heed the wise words of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”

Ms Mulinge is Director, Consumer Business at Safaricom


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