Duo aims to unlock Sh1tr deals for women
By Wainaina Wambu | September 29th 2021
Gina Din-Kariuki is a public relations powerhouse. For more than 20 years, she built and ran Gina Din Corporate Communications before it was acquired by global PR firm Edelman Africa.
Now, drawing from her vast business experiences, she wants to support other women entrepreneurs. The plan is to help them unlock capital and access opportunities.
This has seen her join forces with Xetova, a data science company that specialises in supply chain transformation, to launch an initiative dubbed The WeDeliver Agenda Africa.
The initiative, network and technology-powered, plans to rally Africa’s corporates to support and enable the inclusion of women-led or owned businesses in their supply chain.
The key goal is to support 50,000 women in the continent to unlock deals worth $10 billion (Sh1 trillion) by 2025. This is tipped to boost regional trade and create more than 200,000 jobs across the various value chains.
Enterprise spoke to Gina Din and Bramuel Mwalo, the founder and chief executive of Xetevo.
To Gina Din: How has your experience as a woman in business shaped your involvement in this initiative?
I started a business with no access to capital and in my entire journey as an entrepreneur, I came to realise the challenges women-owned businesses experience as we tried to grow our business.
Whilst many firms say they have an inclusion agenda and supporting women is high on their agenda, the truth is that across the continent, we are not seeing the progress that we should have by now. Under-investment in women still prevails in most countries, in the private sector and governments.
We aim to unlock the power of women entrepreneurs through deeper engagement with the business community. We plan to leverage public-private partnerships to focus on the key challenges that women entrepreneurs face.
You said traditional business models have been designed for and by men. Looking at Kenyan firms, are they aware of this, and is there a willingness to change?
We will look for leaders across the continent that can actively challenge the status quo to start to create a culture of gender equality. This begins by being humble about their strengths and weaknesses.
We all have blind spots. We are not in this to look to our past but more on how to look forward and prioritise what is clearly important for the continent’s economic growth.
What have been the key challenges for women-owned businesses, from your experience?
No one goes into business with a guarantee of success. Fear of the known and the unknown is a major issue for women. They dread failing, especially if the people surrounding them were skeptical of their capability in business. This fear is toxic and perilous, because women may end up operating from a place of fear instead of confidence. As a result, they will fail in business even when they were meant to succeed.
Lack of capital remains the main challenge, with banks largely not considering women as credit-worthy, as they believe they can give up their businesses at any time. Therefore, women entrepreneurs do not have any alternative other than to rely on their savings, or maybe take the financial help of their family.
As women, we tend to shy away from taking credit for our business growth, sometimes becoming our own worst enemies. Taking ownership of your success as a female inspires you to strive harder, exceed expectations and accomplish more in your business.
What can companies do to “walk the talk” and ensure their policies on women are implemented?
Businesses can be more proactive in recruiting diverse candidates and improving accountability. For example, they can track the number of accepted resumes and new hires. Firms can also ensure more tenders go to women entrepreneurs.
To Bramuel Mwalo: From your experience in supply chain management, what are some of the challenges locking out women?
Up to 53 per cent of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) or businesses are women-owned or -led in Africa. There are more women businesses, but they access less than 15 per cent of large-scale supply chain opportunities. That is where the story starts.
These large-scale supply chains are the ones that drive businesses … show me a business that has made over Sh100 million worth of revenue, what helped them do that? It’s a contract. They got a contract from the government, a corporate, or a donor-funded organisation, which helped them grow their business.
The one thing driving SMEs and businesses is the one thing that women don’t have access to, and if they have access to it, they don’t have the capacity to succeed.
Organisations need to do more on streamlining their processes to drive more women to access opportunities.
Governments and corporates have promises that allow access to opportunities for women, but it needs to be taken further to tangible success stories.
This is more than a women’s initiative…
If we are able to support the access and success of a woman in business, it gives us a blueprint to support any other SME in any sector.
We are not just talking about women; it is the pathway to economic inclusion. That’s the bigger vision.
The technology involved helps corporates do five things: They are celebrating women, enhancing their profile, collaborating with financiers and asking to pay women on time.
Our target is that we are going to provide this technology to, for example, banks and simply tell them to be an agent to their eco-system. That they encourage and facilitate their corporates to finance more women by giving incentives in their supply chains and also giving them easy access to finance.
What has been the reception so far?
It’s actually one of our best flying initiatives. We only launched it recently, but we’ve attracted a lot of partners from institutions such as banks, chambers of commerce and non-governmental organisations.
There has been a gap between conversation and implementation. People have just been stuck because there hasn’t been a practical pathway to technically implement these things and the low hanging fruit for a lot of companies is the supply chain. There are simple decisions they make every day, like who’s selling to them and how they pay them.
Technology tracks and is the driver of results, and we have made it very simple for the initiative to be adopted. It’s a low budget approach to inclusion. There’s no way a company that has a policy for women can be left behind.
Everything that is a problem for all suppliers is 10 times more painful for women.
Women are good in credit; they perform better. What we are seeking to do is to put data context to this story and have practical conversations.
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