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Foundation empowers African women

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-06-22 11:35

Traditionally, women face more challenges in starting up or sustaining businesses in many parts of Africa, and the situation has been worsened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, many female entrepreneurs in the continent have also managed to salvage their struggling businesses, and even learned the ropes of online trading through various programs created by nongovernmental organizations.

HerVenture is one such program. It is a mobile learning application that offers female entrepreneurs essential business training and support on the go.

The application is an innovation of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, featuring nine learning tracks on a range of topics, including launching a business, accessing finance, expanding market access and e-commerce.

Wangari Mwaura, the founder of handmade soap manufacturer New Start Organics based in Kenya's coastal town of Kilifi, is one of the beneficiaries of the app.

When COVID-19 hit the country in 2020, Mwaura was not only struggling to build her business, but she was also pregnant and worried about how the business will survive her maternity leave and pandemic-related challenges.

Circumstances also compelled her to relocate her business from the capital Nairobi to Murang'a County, which meant losing customers.

Amid the frustrations, she was introduced to HerVenture, marking the beginning of her business growth that saw her relocate the business to Kilifi, where her products would attract not only customers from across the country, but also international tourists.

"Financial independence is No 1 for me, and flexibility, so I can work when I want and raise my family," she said.

E-commerce platforms

Through the app, the mother of five learned how to launch a business and use e-commerce platforms to forge ahead in the business environment.

Mwaura said the app has also given her a platform to network with other female entrepreneurs on managing different sides of businesses.

To date, over 5,000 Kenyan women have used the app to strengthen their businesses against COVID-19 impacts, including over 2,000 women in South Africa and over 20,000 in Nigeria.

HerVenture is one of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women's three flagship programs that focus on empowering women to start, grow and sustain successful businesses.

The other two programs are Road to Growth, a seven-week intensive business management and investment readiness program running in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, and Mentoring Women in Business, a personalized, cross-border online mentoring program available in every African country.

Emily Scott, director of programs at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, said each program is designed to address the specific barriers that female entrepreneurs face, harnessing the power of technology to build knowledge, skills, confidence and access to resources.

"Since 2008, we've empowered over 200,000 women entrepreneurs to start, grow and sustain their businesses. Hundreds of thousands more people have benefited by extension as the staff, families and communities of these women," she said.

Scott said supporting women to be economically empowered is key to addressing inequalities and can have a ripple effect on communities.

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