Some 360 women-owned businesses launched between two to five years ago will be selected for a three-year incubation programme by the University of Nairobi’s Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) Hub to provide them with new skills.
Upon completion of the programme, the selected entrepreneurs will be required to transfer the skills to their peers in 30 counties.
The 17 selected counties include Tana River, Wajir, Busia, Kitui, Uasin Gishu, Lamu, Kajiado, Nakuru, Nairobi, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Kisumu, Kilifi, Turkana, Samburu and Machakos.
“These counties were selected for their background in economic practices widely undertaken by women. These include agriculture, retail and wholesale trade, manufacturing, hospitality, technology, cosmetology and beauty, money services, clothing, education, training and tours and travel,” Mary Mbithi, the Director of Research at the UoN WEE Hub said.
In the scheme, 24 women-owned micro small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) shall be selected from each county, 17 of these shall fall in the micro category, five in the small category, while two shall fall in the medium enterprise category.
The programme shall be coordinated jointly by the UoN WEE Hub, non-profit organisation Technoserve Kenya, the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade, and Enterprise Development, and the Kenya Investment Mechanism, a programme run by the USAID.
The UoN WEE Hub, a five-year programme established through a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the University of Nairobi, shall be responsible for research, policy advocacy, documentation of best practices, formalisation of women’s business and enterprise development.
“Based on our four thematic areas of affirmative action funds and entrepreneurship, women in formal and informal employment and women’s economic empowerment, childcare and women’s work and women’s movement and policy advocacy for women’s economic empowerment, the hub will serve as a research and evidence hub to strengthen the generation and use of evidence to advance women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in Kenya,” noted Wanjiku Kabira, UoN WEE Leader.
Meanwhile, Technoserve shall be responsible for mobilisation and capacity building while USAID shall provide access to finances, while Kenya Investment Mechanism shall provide linkages to markets, as well as access to finance.
“Many women-run businesses and especially in the grassroots, lack some business skills and they do not know where to get these skills. We need to bring these women together and build networks so that they can be able to access information and opportunities available,” said Alice Waweru, Regional Programmes Manager, Technoserve.
The Ministry of Industrialization, Trade, and Enterprise development shall cover SMEs policy, enterprise development, and policy advocacy. The program, anchored on five key entrepreneurial pillars which are access to credit, linkage to information and technology, capacity building, access to markets/networks, and mentorship, shall also help to evaluate how women-focused incubation models contribute to the growth of enterprises in Kenya.
“Business incubation programmes are recognised by various national governments as the mechanism used to support small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), many of which are run by women. A woman is economically empowered when she can make an economic decision and succeed,” noted Kenya Industrial Estates Managing Director Parmain ole Narikae, who was representing Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina.
Research conducted on the businesses that are incubated shall also help produce evidence of what works for women’s economic empowerment in Kenya. This shall then help impact policy formulation, implementation, and up-scaling of initiatives aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs.
“Despite all the available supporting frameworks towards women empowerment, statistics indicate that male-led enterprises are more successful than women-led enterprises. This forms a very good research question to investigate what needs to be done,” noted Anne Mutahi, Advisor to the President on SMEs.
The research generated by UoN WEE Hub under the program will also be crucial for identifying what needs to be done to equip women with the capacity to tackle big business and become more competitive.