Women-owned businesses are a bedrock of the Kenyan economy. Research from the International Finance Corporation shows that they account for almost half of all micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), which contribute around 20% to the country's GDP.
However, compared with male-owned businesses, they employ fewer staff and are less likely to grow. The main barriers are financial literacy and access to funds. Without which, they are unable to develop their businesses and so remain stuck at the micro-enterprise level.
To address this imbalance, our Sunlight brand set up its Women of More programme. Working alongside the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), Sunlight designed the programme to empower women entrepreneurs through various initiatives, in particular financial literacy training.
Following the success of the pilot – which ran last year and involved 50 women business owners – Sunlight is now scaling up the programme, further strengthening the UNITAR partnership and joining forces with Absa Bank Kenya.
The aim is to reach an additional 5,000 women by December this year and over 100,000 by the end of 2026.
As Henry Muchauraya, Home Care Director for our East Africa business, says: “There is so much potential among women entrepreneurs in Kenya that’s not being realised. This programme is about empowering them with the skills and knowledge to build sustainable, profitable ventures. We want to help them move their businesses from ‘striving’ to ‘thriving’ so they can improve their lives and livelihoods, and contribute even more to their communities.”
90% of what women earn is invested into their homes and communities
The Sunlight Women of More programme helps business owners develop skills such as how to spot opportunities, turn ideas into strong business plans and apply innovations that lead to competitive advantage. It encourages peer learning, knowledge sharing and networking. The women entrepreneurs are also given the opportunity to market their products alongside the brand’s online activations.
From January to July this year, Sunlight donated its media space – including digital, radio and billboards – to over 170 of the women to increase their visibility. While this element of the programme awaits its next cycle, marketing forms an ongoing component of the training. As Henry says: “Helping women to market themselves, especially in the digital world, is really important. The ability to use basic tools like social media to promote their business may sound simple but, when it’s done well, it can make all the difference.”
Disciplines such as marketing and sales are important, but growing a successful business is only possible if the fundamentals are in place. This is where support from Absa Bank comes in, with its ability to advise on how to register a business, formalise operations and keep accurate records.
As Elizabeth Wasunna, Absa’s Director of Business Banking, explains: “These are important factors that not only determine the ability of the entrepreneurs to attract investment and credit, but also scale their businesses to the next level. The Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to more entrepreneurs. We believe that with the right financial literacy, these businesses can grow exponentially.”
The photo above shows Unilever East Africa’s Home Care Director Henry Muchauraya and Absa’s Director of Business Banking Elizabeth Wasunna in front of a Sunlight sponsored billboard during the launch of the Women of More programme.