In September 2021, Visa, a large virtual payment and financial services company expanded its She’s Next program to help women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In August 2022, Visa announced that the development will include a $3.5 million grant to organizations that support small and micro businesses (SMBs), such as the African Women Impact Fund (AWIF), a U.N. Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) cause. The grant will “fund the working capital needs of women fund managers” and support “55 women who responded to AWIF’s call to action.”
Empowering Female Entrepreneurs in Africa
First introduced in 2019 in the United States, the She’s Next program advocates for women entrepreneurs globally through all stages of business growth. This newly expanded program provides these business owners with “access to insights via research and engagement with small businesses, private and public sector communities and educational resources. ”
Visa’s partnership with She Leads Africa, an online platform that connects African women entrepreneurs, provides users with access to a network of more than 700,000 female business owners, resources for digital accessibility and funding.
Gratifying an Essential Market
According to Forbes, Africa is “the fastest-growing continent” in the world as of 2021. As digital literacy becomes increasingly desired, and mandatory for some, it is imperative that African countries prepare their citizens. The International Finance Corporation has reported that in eight years’ time, digital skills will be essential to “230 million jobs in sub-Saharan Africa.”
As of 2019, only half of the nations in Africa provide computer skill training as a subject in their education curriculums in comparison to “85% of countries globally.” This paired with a high demand for digital skills creates a skill shortage, making it more difficult for companies to hire locally.
The World Bank said that “This translates into an opportunity estimated at $130 billion to provide digital skills through a combination of business-to-consumer, business-to-business and business-to-government training services.”
The Rise of Digital Commerce
Through a research study called “Understanding Women-Owned SMEs,” Visa aims to understand how technology affects women-led businesses’ success in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. This study found that, in addition to pandemic-related struggles, “a lack of technological infrastructure,” economic volatility and a “regulatory environment” are the most prominent obstacles to business growth for women entrepreneurs.
The study found that 83% of survey respondents who implemented digital payments experienced increased revenue. About 70% of women foresee their customers using “e-commerce platforms” more frequently post-pandemic, further encouraging these women entrepreneurs to establish an online presence.
Women Entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa
As of 2017, SSA had the “highest rate of women entrepreneurs” globally (27%). In fact, Uganda and Botswana had the highest percentage globally at 34.8% and 34.6% respectively. However, female entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa garner profits 34% lower than males.
A lack of education and skills reduces women’s access to employment opportunities. As a result, women may look to entrepreneurship as a way out of poverty. Initiatives such as Visa’s She’s Next program address the barriers that women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa face, furthering their economic independence and prosperity.
– Aishah French