One hundred women-owned businesses in the East African Community stand a chance to secure additional capital to expand their operations and profitability through a new funding challenge launched by Graca Machel, the children and women rights advocate and founder of the Graca Machel Trust, which is partnering with the competition’s funders.
Dubbed Invest2Impact, the competition and the eventual winners, will be funded by leading development finance Institutions (DFIs) from the G7 countries. Among the financiers are FinDevCanada, the Commonwealth Development Corporation Group (CDC) of the United Kingdom, Proparco of France and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) of the United States and the MasterCard Foundation.
They will provide funding to the tune of up to $85,000 to help support women-owned businesses in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia. It is expected that each of the participating countries will produce 20 winners.
"Research shows that increasing women’s involvement leads to improved financial management and more sustainable, thriving communities," said Ms Machel during yesterday's launch of the competition in Nairobi.
The finance gap in women entrepreneurship is estimated at $300 billion - about Sh30 trillion -- globally. That means that seven out of ten women SME entrepreneurs lack the financing they need to operate and grow their businesses.
Businesses whose focus are alinged with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to reduce poverty, increase access to health and education services, reduce hunger and increase food security, promote gender equity, create decent working conditions for their employees and spur economic growth, have a greater chance of being considered for the funding.
The challenge set to start on July 11 and end on November 13 will also provide women with business development services, mentorship programmes, new networks and business visibility through partnerships.
To qualify, a business must be have a woman or women owning at least half of the share-holding and have assets or revenues in excess of $50,000 (Sh5 million).
They should also have been in operation for at least three years and a minimum of five employees.
The successful businesses will be divided into four categories determined by their annual revenues, whether or not they are social enterprises or innovative businesses with a with a high potential to attract public support as well as those seeking to improve their marketing efforts.
"The competition is not for start-ups but established businesses," said Stephanie Emond, the Director of Impact at FinDev Canada.
The 2XInvest2Impact competition which will be on an online application portal will open to the public on Monday. It will remain open to applicants for two months.