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Growth4Her, Bridging the Gender Financing Gap

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Despite owning 58% of Africa’s SMEs, women face a $42 billion gender financing gap, impeding their ability to scale up, advance professionally as business leaders, and compete globally.

WOMEN ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE AFRICAN ECONOMY — According to a recent World Bank research, women entrepreneurs are an important and thriving source of economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, women-owned businesses get lower monetary returns (profit or investment funding) compared to men-owned businesses owing to gender-specific restrictions. In recent times, there has been an increase in women-centric training programs, yet this hasn’t translated to an equivalent rise in financing. This imbalance implies women entrepreneurs may be overtrained, and underfunded. Therefore, it is critical that in supporting women entrepreneurs, we provide an enabling environment that ensures a balance of both capacity and resources relevant for growth.

During a closed virtual launch, Grace Oluchi, Cofounder and Executive Director of Creative Space Startups asked, “What if we all intentionally supported women entrepreneurs?”. This intentionality begins with Growth4Her, a women accelerator program created by Creative Space Startups in partnership with Sociocapital Impact Group, The Learning Gate and WETECH. G4Her seeks to bridge the gender financing gap in Africa by providing women entrepreneurs with the capacity and tools which enables them to transition from small to high potential fundable growth stage businesses. The program offers a robust support system for women entrepreneurs; “The G4Her consortium brings the best of business and development, equipping beneficiaries with the perspective and tools to leverage the opportunity from a diverse investment cluster. Women-led enterprises need to be adaptive to rapid volatility and uncertainty peculiar to the African market. The G4Her program will deliver a balanced coaching and mentorship program, including psychosocial support required for them to survive and thrive”. Sharon Madaki, Executive Director, Sociocapital.

Over the next 5 years, this program aims to empower 1500 women entrepreneurs across 10 African cities with a particular interest in women-led Small and Medium Enterprises (WSMEs) in West and Central Africa. The program offers beneficiaries investment readiness skills, links them directly to funders, and fosters an ecosystem that supports Women’s SMEs.

“Investment readiness is a nursery bed prepared for investors to plant, water and nurture their seeds,” says Ajuma Ataguba, Principal Consultant for The Learning Gate. Our approach is to see women receive the skills, resources and direct access to funders and new markets. We guide them through the interaction with funders to ensure higher success rates. The program’s four pillars include capacity building, public policy co-creation, psychosocial support and investment readiness training.

With support funding from AFAWA (Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa), Growth4Her will be piloted in Cameroon and Nigeria and looks forward to onboarding 30-50 women entrepreneurs for its first cohort. Through this sub-economic region collaboration, hopes are high as the program is expected to increase collaborations between neighbouring Cameroon and the Nigerian entrepreneurship ecosystem. Taking advantage of initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and other intra-African policies and programs to increase cross-border women collaboration and economic growth.

The program is being implemented in Nigeria by Creative Space Startups and in Cameroon by WETECH; speaking on the program’s goals, Elodie Nonga-Kenla, Founder of WETECH stated “We want to ensure that women in (Africa) Cameroon become more confident, heard, encouraged, and supported in their entrepreneurial journey. The program is a great opportunity for women entrepreneurs in the economic region to build their ability to scale on both a continental and global level”.

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