How To Empower Women Entrepreneurs

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Women hold up half the sky. This phrase has inspired books, songs, NGOs, and most importantly women throughout the globe. What does it mean?

With focus on supporting the growth and development of women entrepreneurs in Africa, Mastercard has committed to three partnerships that will impact women in Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.

This comes in celebration of the annual Women Entrepreneurship Day, serving as a reminder of the important role women play in economic development in Africa. The partnerships will include Injaz in Egypt, Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) in Nigeria and Junior Achievement South Africa (JA South Africa).

These partnerships will focus on empowering young girls and women through financial literacy training and mentorship, giving them access to a network of women in similar situations.

Supporting these female entrepreneurs is vital to their sustained growth, as they become self-sufficient and better able to provide for themselves and their families. This has a positive impact on their immediate community as well, with knowledge transfer and employment opportunities being created.

The importance becomes even more evident when you consider that Africa has the world’s highest rate of working poverty – people who are employed but earning less than US$2 a day. Additionally, according to the World Bank Africa’s youth population is expected to grow by 42.5 million by 2020.
Partnerships that work

In Egypt, Mastercard will collaborate with Injaz Egypt to introduce a skills development program for young female entrepreneurs to help them establish, sustain and grow their businesses. Twenty teams of Egyptian women aged between 21 and 27 over an eight month period will be empowered to pursue their dreams and establish their financial independence. Trainings will include planning and review of establishing a business model.

With women making up almost 50 percent of the population in Egypt, and according to the CAPMAS study they are the head of almost 18 percent of households but only constitute less than a quarter of the country’s labour force. With an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent, small and medium enterprises are a vital catalyst for economic growth.

Across in Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa – Mastercard has recommitted to its partnership with YTF to continue efforts to improve the lives of women through financial literacy, technology and skills-enhancement training. The partnership, established in 2012, will now include the training and mentorship of 150 apprentices, talented young women that are now working for female business owners that have previously gone through or are currently going through the YTF programme. This will create a ripple effect that will impact generations of women in Nigeria. To date, the partnership has impacted over 11,000 Nigerian women entrepreneurs across 14 states.

To see how much of an impact the partnership has had – watch the story of Afoma Ebri, an entrepreneur from Owerri in Nigeria.

In South Africa, Mastercard will be extending its support of the JA South Africa Mini Enterprise Programme for the sixth year, with a R1.4 million donation that sees more than 450 learners, predominantly young women, participate in the organisation’s flagship programme. To date, over 2,500 young South Africans have benefited from the partnership.

The Mini Enterprise Programme guides the selected Grade 10 and 11 learners from 13 schools across seven provinces in theory and practical sessions over a 15 week period. Focusing on business theory, accounting, cash flow and marketing, the programme helps the learners to develop and market their own product to their community, while building their interpersonal skills and confidence.

Stories of hope and resilience

The impact being made through the collaboration between Mastercard and YTF is evident by the stories of women in Nigeria empowering themselves and their families. Eucharia, a 36 year old proud mother of four, started her tiling and building materials supply business Tokaf Investments in what is a typically male-dominated industry. Another challenge was an over-sized and under-used warehouse that served as more of a liability than an asset. The training she received enabled her to totally re-brand her business and grow it by 60% using mobile technology to engage with her customers. Euchaira has cut costs significantly and created growth that allows her to support her family, and also help mentor young girls in her community.

Bonolo Modise, aged 20, completed the JA South Africa course in 2013. Since primary school, she has run a small business called Jewellery by Noli, and makes custom jewellery using water pearls and African beads. Like her, nineteen-year old Faith Modipa completed the JA course in the same year, and is now studying a BCom in Accounting Sciences at the University of Pretoria. She aims to open her own accounting practice, and will draw on the skills learnt during the programme.

Partnerships across the continent, such as those established by Mastercard, will go a long way in securing the future of women as they establish themselves as business owners. Women entrepreneurs will have a dramatic impact on the growth of economies across Africa, and should not be underestimated.

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