As documented in previous articles, Equity Bank is spearheading the African Recovery and Resilience plan in which the bank and partners aim to make Africa leap forward as a unit in all its economic outcomes. This is in recognition to the fact that Africa can make it rain and there is a clear window for economic unity currently. This is a window that will close at some point and so the time is now.
The coming of Covid19 and the Russia Ukraine war broke global supply chains and has reminded us of what we have always known. That we can and should work towards self-reliance so that the larger economies out there are our partners as an economic block and not our seniors. Rich in arable land, natural minerals and an energetic work force, a united Africa is a formidable force that can get to levels that have never been fully explored.
The backbone and end result of the African Recovery and Resilience plan is economic empowerment for everyone, without leaving women behind. Women have traditionally been disadvantaged in terms of access to capital and operating funds because of existing biases which are thankfully being broken by financial institutions such as Equity. Despite owning almost 50% of MSMEs, many women entrepreneurs have stagnated at starter and pre-growth level, never managing to push forward to fully fledged and highly profitable businesses.
The above is no longer always the case, because women are now able to access credit in form of carefully crafted loans from Equity Bank and other institutions including Government. These loans come bundled with financial education, digital literacy, business management training, mentorship, opportunities to network among each other and access to markets. Because what would money be without knowledge on how to utilize it for the best?
The working of this well-rounded package can be demonstrated through the story of Mary Odero – a spare parts dealer along Kirinyaga Road in Nairobi. Mary whose business is named UniGrow Ventures sells spares for both Japanese and European cars, and also runs an Equity agent venture for additional income.
She banks with Equity and under the bank’s Young Africa Works program, she and other youth group members have been able to access loans over time to grow their businesses. They have also received training on record keeping and its importance, business costing, and how to market their businesses. Before the training for instance, Mary was rather casual with her business records, just buying inventory, selling, and splitting the money between the business and personal expenses without any clear division. This means that she never really knew what profits her business was making. This is no longer the case.
She also learned digital literacy so that she’s now able to market her goods online, and about placing old stock on promotion to move it and create space for new goods. This has kept her business moving in a direction which she can clearly see and she’s happy about that. With an arsenal of products from Equity, she is equipped to move her money around to work in the favour of her business. We are looking at loans, mobile banking, Equity agent, Equitel and the *247# USSD, all of which are at her disposal.
Mary’s case is an example of how Equity Bank embraces women empowerment, and how this will be replicated to even bigger extents in the recovery plan across Africa. With enough empowerment, women entrepreneurs will comfortably fit into the six pillars of the recovery plan, improve the lives of their families, and contribute immensely to the growth of Africa.