Women are the key to economic growth throughout the world, but especially in developing countries like Kenya. Countries that do not address gender barriers and the battles that face female entrepreneurs will miss significant economic growth potential.
In Kenya, women-owned businesses account for about forty-eight percent (48%) of all micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). Women-owned MSMEs contribute twenty percent (20%) of Kenya’s GDP. Since 2000, Kenya created 462,000 jobs annually, with 445,000 of these jobs coming from the informal sector where eighty-five percent (85%) of women-owned businesses are found. If gender based inequities in business, education, and agricultural sectors are eliminated, Kenyan women can do more.
There are four (4) huge barriers in the Kenyan business environment that effect women entrepreneurialism.
- Women have unequal access to property and land. Only one percent (1%) of land in Kenya is titled to women. This is a key constraint in financing business enterprises.
- For women in Kenya, there is a lack of financial support. Banks in Kenya do not view a business as a profitable entity. Instead, banks look at what land and buildings a business owns in determining its worth. Since women in Kenya do not own land, it makes it almost impossible to get a loan to finance a business since they have no collateral. Without a loan, women-owned businesses remain stuck at the micro-enterprise level.
- Most Kenyan women have very little formal education. Women have not been exposed to the entrepreneurial skills needed to be confident in entering the business world; the challenges of having to deal with licensing, other regulatory hurdles, and the legal system; the skills needed to mentor and manage other people; and the legal rights that a business owner is afforded. Education equips women with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively manage and succeed in their chosen business venture.
- Women in Kenya have poor access to justice and access to justice is essential for ensuring smooth business operations from enforcing contracts to solving employment disputes. Using the judicial system in Kenya can be costly, complex, and time consuming all that can have a devastating impact on a MSME.
Women entrepreneurs reinvest 90¢ of every additional dollar of income into “human resources” – their families, education, nutrition, and health. They are highly innovative and tend to be more successful because of their trusted status within their communities. They are strong and driven. They want their families to have a better and more financially secure life than they have experienced. They need help in breaking down the barriers. Kenyan Works is doing its part.
Kenya Works continues to support programs that are making substantial impact towards the financial literacy, savings opportunity, income generation and empowerment of women’s groups in Kenya. We are actively developing collaborations which support opportunities for self sufficiency and positive change. We know that when we support the women of the community, we are also supporting their families as well as their surrounding networks.
Source: International Finance Corporation – World Bank Group: “Voices of Women Entrepreneurs in Kenya Report”