From the inception of the financial sector in Kenya until the mid-90s, women were largely excluded from the formal financial sector due to various barriers such as requirement for introductory letters to open bank account, minimum operating balances and expensive ledger fees.
Excluding women from the formal financial sector had detrimental economic and social impact on our women. It limited their access to capital for business and other economic ventures and denied them independence that comes with financial autonomy.
Equity has been celebrated for democratizing the banking sector for everyone removing the barriers to opening and running bank accounts and innovatedions around financial solutions that were specifically tailored to meet the needs of women from all walks of life. These empowered women whether housewives, agriculture enthusiasts, women interested in pursuing entrepreneurship, women passionate about learning institutions etc to dream, to start and to grow.
Today, the role played by women in entrepreneurship cannot be ignored. They are significant players in creating jobs and driving economic growth. The increased entry of women into business has necessitated development of tailored solutions to help them transform their lives.
This is more than just access; when inclusion is coupled with financial literacy and entrepreneurship education women entrepreneurs have better business outcomes. This is a key enabler of Sustainable Development Goal 5 which focuses on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
Financial institutions like Equity have been at the forefront of supporting women in business. The lender, who has a strong regional presence in East and Central Africa has innovated financial solutions to meet the needs of individual women, women in groups and women-led SMEs enabling them to enhance their growth and wealth creation.
Financial Solutions Tailored for Women
- In 2007, Equity launched Fanikisha in partnership with UNDP and with participation from the ILO and UNIDO with the aim of promoting and increasing
- Fanikisha is a bundled product that targets different women from all cadres of life to access financial solutions. In English Fanikisha translates to accomplish – Equity catalyses the accomplishment of women’s dreams no matter how small or big they are
- The Fanikisha solution takes a tiered approach to supporting women:
- Under Faniksiha women organized in groups can leverage on their social capital (chama savings) to access loans from as low as Ksh 1,000
- Individual women can access loans to improve their homes – purchase curtains, upgrade their TVs or sofa sets etc. Needs and wants that require a sum of money to accomplish
- Individual women also looking to make large commercial investments can also access loans to support their entrepreneurship dreams
- Women formed chamas can access financing for large investment ventures – buying plots, building rentals, buying a matatu for commercial use etc.
- In short, Equity supports women to accomplish their dreams and aspirations and no dream is too small or too big
Impact to date
• Disbursement of Kes 339.2 billion in loans to women
• 8.3 million women impacted
2. Young Africa Works Kenya Program
• Equity Group Foundation in partnership with Mastercard Foundation and Equity Group is currently implementing the Young Africa Works Kenya (YAW-K) Program.
• The Program aims at generating 810,000 jobs through micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) across all sectors of the economy over a 5-year period which comes to an end in 2024.
• The Young Africa Works Program was established with the primary objectives of stimulating job creation and economic growth by providing youth and women MSME entrepreneurs with financial advice, mentorship, entrepreneurship training and access to financial and business development services.
• Women are trained, then they access funding to support them in their entrepreneurial journey
Impact to date
• Support to over 500,000 MSMEs through capacity building
• Extension of loans valued at Kes 200 billion
• Creation and preservation of over 1.26 million jobs
These tailored products and interventions targeting women in business have earned the Equity global acclaim from well-respected institutions. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Global SME Finance Awards 2022 feted Equity as the platinum winner for the Best Financier for Women Entrepreneurs which speaks into what the brand and its leadership values.
In fact, in 2020 Dr. Mwangi was honored with the prestigious Oslo Business for Peace Award his businessworthy values in championing financial inclusion for all in East and Central Africa. He also won the 2012 Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year, becoming the first business leader from Sub Saharan Africa to win this prestigious award. The Equity Business model won him the Global Vision Award in 2007 at the G8 Summit in Germany with the citation “a concept of the future that will transform the world economy”.
Globally, governments and economic organisations continue to champion the growth of the SME sector and push financial institutions to formulate policies and solutions that support the growth of women-led SMEs. A move that will contribute to creating more job opportunities while at the same time strengthening the various key sectors of the economy.