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This article is part of a series: Spotlight on Female Entrepreneurs in Africa, for International Women’s Day. #BalanceforBetter
Female entrepreneurship rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are the highest in the world, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. One in four adult woman is engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity in the region. The statistics however may mask the challenges that female entrepreneurs face, especially those coming from low income backgrounds living in slums.
In the Kenyan capital city, Nairobi, close to 60% of the city’s population (2.5 million people) live in slums. While slums are hotbed for entrepreneurial activities as people innovate out of necessity, there are a myriad of challenges facing female slum-dwellers in entrepreneurship. Lack of access to finance is a big challenge, as 51% of women have account access compared to 75% of men in Kenya. Women also spend more time than men on unpaid care responsibilities, especially as 60% of Kenyan women are likely to be single mothers before they reach 45.
Social entrepreneurs like Allie Amoroso, Co-Founder of ROSE, and her Co-Founder Patrick Juma, are working to enable female entrepreneurs thrive in the most challenging of circumstances. From their experiences in Mathare slums, there are three key ingredients enabling female entrepreneurs living in extreme poverty to thrive.
The first, and most important ingredient, is community. ROSE, which stands for Restoration of Sisters in the Extreme, believes that entrepreneurship support needs to go beyond supporting the individual entrepreneur, but enabling the whole community to work together. “We are a sisterhood, a community learning and growing together for the benefit of all women. In our governance structure, we have the ROSE Counsel, elected by the women we work with. The Counsel determines our vision, goals and projects.” Since 2016, they have worked with over 200 women in 12 small business groups, and all groups grew their group savings from zero to around 800 dollars in two years. The savings then are used towards paying school fees for their children, as well as investing in new projects started within their community, with micro-loans between $50 to $250.
The second ingredient is education. “We have found that many of our women need education on basic business principles in order to present their business ideas in a viable and investment worthy way,” said Allie Amoroso. Yet, different from other entrepreneurship support programs, ROSE ensures that the curriculum is decided by the community themselves, and that the women who have been trained go on to become trainers for other women. “Joanne and Lilian, who joined us in 2016, are both members of our ROSE Counsel now and mentor upcoming ROSE Women leaders. Empowerment of ROSE women is most successful when innovation comes from the inside out and the woman running the show is someone who was once in the audiences’ shoes.”
The final ingredient is innovative tools. One of the challenges for women living in poverty is balancing their care burden with business needs. Teaming up with innovative startups from Allie’s contacts at Silicon Valley, ROSE has recently started an Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot, Rosie. “Rosie is being piloted with ROSE as a tool for tracking cash flows and profit/loss on a weekly basis for ROSE business groups. We then realised that the women also need a way to find resources that can help them with their daily lives, such as ‘where do I take my child to the hospital’.” Rosie is still being piloted but Allie has found that the women entrepreneurs are asking for more interaction time with Rosie.
There is a famous African saying, “ When you want to go fast, go alone; when you want to go far, go together. ” The story of ROSE and the ROSE women is one that challenges our preconceived notions about entrepreneurship – it is more about the community than the individual. Entrepreneurship should be about constantly enabling others and giving back.
If you are interested to learn more about ROSE’s work, please visit http://bit.ly/2SJ4aMd;
March 6, 2019 at 06:01PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs