She Leads Africa: Supporting African Women in Business
South Africa has the highest rate of female entrepreneurship in the world; however, the majority of the female-led startups are small-sized, individual-owned business. In order to foster female-led high-growth startups, She Leads Africa (SLA) provides African female entrepreneurs with the knowledge, financing and networks.

In Africa, female entrepreneurs face four major barriers to their success in entrepreneurship: unequal access to education, limited access to financing, constricted traditional stereotypes, and limited access to networks. SLA supports female entrepreneurs through hosting annual business pitch competition and building a community for female entrepreneurs.

Women in Africa don’t have equal chances to get an education since the primary level, which makes them lack business knowledge and work experience to create high-profit companies. Since 2014, SLA has hosted an annual pitch competition to identify the most promising African female entrepreneurs.

The finalists can get six-week training and business plan development with experienced mentors, who are from premier consulting, finance and venture capital companies. Moreover, SLA also creates an online platform for potential female entrepreneurs to share their business knowledge.

The unequal treatment does not only show in education but also in financial access. According to the report by SLA, women face fewer options, higher interest rates, and shorter terms when they look for loans. Thus, SLA’s pitch competition offers winners more than $55,000 in cash and kind prizes, including legal services and office supplies.

Besides the support in financing, SLA creates valuable networking chances for female entrepreneurs. By now, more than 380 entrepreneurs from more than 27 countries apply for a coveted finalist spot. The pitch competition has been a platform for African female entrepreneurs to network with other entrepreneurs and look for investors and mentors.

In a male-dominated society, women are always valued by their domestic contributions. However, with the popularity of SLA pitch competition, people raise the awareness of female entrepreneurship. In the 2015 Entrepreneur Showcase, six finalists were selected. On the final pitch competition, they will compete for a $10,000 prize and access directly to investors and international media attention.

“We are excited about our second cohort of young African female entrepreneurs for mentoring, training and investment and if I must say so myself, they are quite dope,” said Afua Osel, co-founder of SLA.

SLA emphasizes the role of the female in economic development. According to its Press kit, SLA is “a social enterprise dedicated to ensuring that women are not left out of Africa’s Growth Story.” Starting from a feminist concept, by offering them training and business development, providing financial support, enlarging their social network and rise social approval, SLA is the forefront of supporting African women in business.

Shengyu Wang

Sources: Black Enterprise, SLA 1, SLA 2, SLA 3
Photo: Flickr