ConsumerCentriX Contributes to Unlocking the Power and Potential of Women’s Financial Inclusion Data

ConsumerCentriX Contributes to Unlocking the Power and Potential of Women's Financial Inclusion Data

The female economy is the largest, fast-growing market representing a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. However, despite significant progress made in expanding access to financial services, women remain unserved by the financial sector. Lack of quality sex-disaggregated data is a major barrier to women’s financial inclusion. Financial service providers (FSPs) and financial regulators are data-driven organizations but not always when it comes to collecting and using gender data.

ConsumerCentriX (CCX) conducted country-level sex-disaggregated supply-side data collection that contributed to the development of the “Gender Data for Financial Inclusion,” a report commission by the Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership that assessed the state of gender data and women’s financial inclusion in Bangladesh, Honduras, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey. The WFID Partnership is a coalition to improve the availability, production, and use of sex-disaggregated data to promote women’s financial inclusion.

CCX assessed data from their vast network of regulators, FSPS, and other key stakeholders in order to design, prioritize and manage interventions that address gaps in women’s financial inclusion. Mapping the ecosystem of financial services, identifying opportunities and building coalitions of national stakeholders is essential when driving action for women’s financial inclusion. The country research in the report provides a detailed mapping of the supply-side ecosystem helping to pinpoint the key stakeholders that are well-positioned to advance inclusive financial services for women using gender-disaggregated data.

Sex-disaggregated data is essential for driving solutions and policies that promote women’s financial inclusion.

– Anna Gincherman, Partner  at ConsumerCentriX

The research calculated the women’s market opportunity in each country in order to build the business case for the financial sector. The annual revenue opportunity for reaching unbanked or underserved women in the six countries is staggering and ranges from an estimated $352M USD in Kenya to $1,159M USD in Turkey. Even given the limitations in incomplete gender data sources, CCX calculations suggest that there is a strong potential for market revenue gains if FSPs were to maximize their women’s market opportunities ranging from 2 percent in Turkey to 25 percent in Honduras. And by increasing the availability of supply-side data, business case metrics could be further leveraged.

 

Sharing Our Learnings: You Can Only Monitor What You Measure

Findings from the research were shared at a webinar on June 14th hosted by WFID in partnership with The Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), Data2X, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Financial Alliance for Women, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Women’s Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). The event celebrated the progress made in advancing women’s financial inclusion data in these six countries.

Speakers from the event included Antoinette Sayeh (Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund), Rebecca Ruf (EVP of Programs at Financial Alliance for Women), Elsie Addo Awadzi (Deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana), Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula (Former Deputy Governor of Bank of Zambia), Greta Bull (Director of Women’s Economic Empowerment at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and Inez Murray (CEO of the Financial Alliance for Women). The event was moderated by Mayra Buvinic (Senior Fellow of the United Nations Foundation with Data2X).

The panel discussions focused on country regulators and financial inclusion experts who have been taking bold steps forward when it comes to use of gender data. They have been working with FSPs to better understand the women’s market, drive revenue for businesses, and build more inclusive growth for society.

From a policy maker perspective, we have to understand who is being excluded and what services work differently for whom. We need sex-disaggregated data to answer these questions. There is no alternative.

– Mr. Md. Abul Bashar, Bangladesh Bank

Panel I included speakers from CCX collaborators:  Sophia Abu (Central Bank of Nigeria), Md. Abul Bashar (Bangladesh Bank), Alba Luz Valladares O’Connor (Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros Honduras) moderated by Wendy Teleki (Head of We-Fi Secretariat at the World Bank).

The first panel highlighted the importance of collecting standardized data in order to build convincing evidence on the women’s market opportunity and design effective policies and products. Without regulated mechanics for data collection, standardization is very difficult. A productive first step towards collecting better metrics is updating the regulatory institution’s dashboards and templates in order to capture higher quality data to advance specific products that meet women’s needs. All three speakers highlighted the importance of the WFID partnership in supporting them to build the mechanisms to collect quality gender-disaggregated data.

There’s a lot of data that’s already being collected and submitted by the financial services providers – we’re working with them to develop a women’s financial inclusion dashboard alongside the WFID partnership to show the business case to serve the women’s segment—once they see its good business, there will be more products and services tailored for the women’s segment.

– Sophia Abu, Central Bank of Nigeria

Speakers from Panel II included Melsa Ararat (Corporate Governance Forum of Turkey), Tamara Cook (CEO of FSD Kenya) moderated by Rosita Najmi (Head of Global Social Innovation at Paypal).

Women are often perceived as not being profitable enough, which makes it difficult for FSPs to justify investments in women-centered products in specific markets. The second panel discussed how improving women’s financial inclusion will require engagement from not only the FSPs, but also across the private and public sectors, along with international organizations, donors, associations, and civil society. Going forward, we should focus on strengthening all stakeholders’ ability to collect, report, and use gender data to increase women’s access to and usage of financial services, while encouraging collaborative thinking and action on the intersecting issues.

Women’s financial inclusion should not just be focused on justifying the business profitability but should also be based on the notion that financial inclusion of women is a public good.

– Melsa Ararat, Corporate Governance Forum of Turkey

Building out quality supply-side and provider-level data on women is vital in order to advance women’s financial inclusion, as highlighted by Greta Bull in her closing remarks. Clarity around what is best to measure, helpful reporting mechanisms and essential changes to FSPs systems are all key in progressing access and usage of formal financial services for women. Ultimately, there is a strong business case for society to serve the women’s market and a need for more coordination and collaboration among all stakeholders in order to develop data driven women’s financial inclusion solutions.

Gender data is primordial to women’s financial inclusion; it shines a light, measures where we are, prompts us to do better, shows us how, builds accountability and potentially shames us into action.

– Inez Murray, CEO of Financial Alliance for Women 

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Tony Otoa

How has Covid-19 affected the Stanbic Business Incubator and How Does it Plan to Respond? Chief Executive Tony Otoa Explains

ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

How has Covid-19 affected the Stanbic Business Incubator and How Does it Plan to Respond? Chief Executive Tony Otoa Explains

Tony Otoa

Like all businesses, the Stanbic Business Incubator (SBIL) faced a slate of new challenges and obstacles stemming from the pandemic. To understand how the Stanbic Business Incubator navigated these challenges, we sat down with Tony Otoa, SBIL’s Chief Executive. Mr. Otoa provided us with an insider’s perspective on SBIL’s pandemic experience, lessons learned, and projections for Covid-19 recovery.

Mr. Otoa explained that the pandemic afforded SBIL one major lesson: a business must remain agile and adapt to the flow of the new normal. Covid-19 upended traditional business operations, relationships, and practices. Businesses that were unable to adjust and respond to the evolving environment suffered immensely while those that were flexible and adapted practices and operations as things changed flourished. For its part, the Stanbic Business Incubator changed its program development process and how it connects with its clients.

Because of the lockdown, explained Mr. Otoa, SBIL was unable to carry out in-person training, so the team switched to online platforms to complete its mandate of supporting Uganda’s business community. Like in businesses throughout the world, transitioning online heavily impacted how SBIL delivers its services and required a shift in its approach to client relations and communications. The upshot to these challenges was an increase in the number and geographic location of people reached. Pre-pandemic, class sizes were limited to what was allowed by regional training hubs, but the online platforms allowed SBIL to reach many people through the country.

Mr. Otoa believes that SBIL’s Covid-19 recovery started long before the lockdowns were lifted. Stanbic Business Incubator remains focused on supporting businesses to drive and achieve more. Their strategy is to assist businesses in accessing finance, accessing markets, and provide tracking to better understand how to support them better. More importantly, is how this support is delivered. Mr. Otoa stresses the need to blend approaches to best support businesses in the coming period. This means combining online and in-person training to best support their clients while blending business techniques from both the pre- and post-Covid period.

SBIL expects its new chapter to encapsulate the lessons learned from this pandemic period. Namely, the need for agility as they switched to new, online platforms, the new geographic regions and audiences they were able to reach as a result of their online shift and continuing the newly blended approach to continue supporting their clients. All told, Stanbic Business Incubator expects a strong recovery for themselves and for their clients as they step forward into this new period.


SBIL

Interested in training opportunities with the Stanbic Business Incubator? Incubator Business Manager Sheila Agaba explains upcoming offerings

ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

 

Interested in training opportunities with the Stanbic Business Incubator? Incubator Business Manager Sheila Agaba explains upcoming offerings

- Sheila Agaba

Business Manager, Stanbic Business Incubator

The Covid-19 Business Info Hub recently sat down with Sheila Agaba, the Stanbic Business Incubator’s Business Manager to discuss the many training opportunities on offer to small and medium enterprises and aspiring entrepreneurs.  

Ms. Agaba leads Stanbic Business Incubator Limited (SBIL)’s strategy, coordinates partnerships, and tracks SBIL’s impact. During her tenure, she has witnessed some of the pandemic’s major impacts on SBIL’s clients. She notes that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) struggled throughout the pandemic to access much-needed finance. Viewed as riskier investments by financial institutions, SMEs struggle to secure capital to develop their businesses. To address this challenge, SBIL has implemented various capacity-building trainings to help de-risk SMEs and improve their chances for access to credit.   

The Enterprise Development Programs – which have been rebranded as the Stanbic Accelerator Program, Micro enterprise Development Program and Supplier Development Program. These will have both in-person and online sessions and include both a local and regional focus. These sessions specifically target SMEs at a more intermediate stage of their business journey, such as those that can provide annual turnover reports and other business information. The local program largely supports businesses with the know-how to access capital and markets in the Kampala region. They were shifted fully online when Covid-19 struck for safety reasons. The Micro Enterprise Development Program provides similar support but operates at a national level and targets micro enterprises with 1-2 staff and an average annual turnover of 5M shillings.  

SBIL’s Supplier Development Program is largely geared toward those in the oil and gas industry. This program supports SMEs aiming to qualify as suppliers to larger companies engaged in drilling and other work across the Albertine region. The program supports SMEs to get registered to the national supplier database if not yet registered. This program will support linkages for the beneficiaries to the existing players in the oil camps in order for them to supply companies in drilling and oil and gas construction. This will be conducted with support from local oil companies in the industry. In addition, personal finance modules help SMEs with the necessary principals to arrange both personal and business financing. Similarly, SBIL arranges masterclasses post the trainings for alumni which are information-sharing sessions for about several topics relevant to business growth.  

SBIL’s program Implementation relies on financial support from Stanbic Bank, local and international partners This funding helps SBIL to deliver on the key pillars of access to  capital and market for SMEs. These programs facilitate SMEs develop new product lines, obtain new contracts, and expand into new markets and geographical regions. One of SBIL’s major partners is the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), which focuses on job creation specifically for women and youth. Their target is to create employment for nine hundred people annually through the GIZ partnership. The French Embassy in Uganda is another donor that focuses on supporting SMEs especially youth and women in agroecology and ecotourism. Similarly, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has partnered with SBIL through Petroleum Authority Uganda (PAU) to facilitate and train Business Development Services (BDS) to over 200 SMEs in various sectors along the EACOP route districts – a Ugandan area where the oil and gas pipeline will pass before entering Tanzania. All told, these partnerships have yielded a significant increase in SMEs’ access to funding. 27% of unbanked SMEs engaged in the programs have opened accounts with Stanbic Bank while 15% have begun access credit from Stanbic Bank. 35% have improved their tax compliance – allowing access to more markets and proving an early victory for SBIL’s international partners.  

With pandemic lockdowns coming to an end, Stanbic Business Incubator is now looking to the future and how it can keep serving the business community. Ms. Agaba notes that the company is looking forward to expanding partnership opportunities while prioritizing sustainability. 

 


Sharing vital COVID-19 resources with Ugandan entrepeneurs to help them thrive

Employing over 2.5 million people in Uganda, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the key driver of growth for the country’s economy. However, due to disruptions in the supply chain, travel restrictions, and changing work conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the SME was under threat of shrinking significantly and thus threatening the livelihoods of many microentrepreneurs. Stanbic Bank and Stanbic Business Incubator Limited have offered a variety of innovative products and services to assist entrepreneurs in addressing these challenges during the pandemic.

In May 2020, Stanbic Bank partnered with ConsumerCentriX to develop the COVID-19 Business Info Hub, an online platform that shares vital information and solutions for Ugandan enterprises and corporate clients coping with the financial effects of the pandemic. The goal of the platform is to eliminate misinformation surrounding COVID-19 resources by providing entrepreneurs with a centralized site to learn about new laws, regulations, support systems, and emerging innovations, alongside the provision of critical financial advice and business training relative to the crisis.

A Useful Resource

The site serves as a trusted resource for all Ugandan entrepreneurs seeking business information and relevant training courses.The site includes four resourceful sections:

  • Insights for my Business where entrepreneurs can find information on current policies, regulations and industry trends amidst the pandemic;
  • Growing My Skills which provides SMEs with access training opportunities with corresponding testimonials, and video animation tips aimed at increasing their capacity development;
  • How We Can Help which is centered around Stanbic Bank’s content and the measures it takes to support entrepreneurs including the tools they use to support them; and
  • Voices of Entrepreneurs created as a response to highlight topics often overlooked with catering to underserved markets, such as women entrepreneurs.

Content was developed based on the target market’s needs, by analysing popular content, but also through understanding what entrepreneurs are looking for. The covid-19 business info hub conducted a survey to understand SMEs preferences for content and communication. It found that training opportunities and financing sources are considered the most useful content. This survey also highlighted some discrepancies in content preferences by gender. For example,  while females prefer testimonials on training alumni, males are poised towards more videos and animations on tips to grow entrepreneurial skills.

Finally, 28% of respondents have accessed training or finance through the Covid-19 Business Info Hub, this shows how the site is meeting the gap between access to training, development and finance to entrepreneurs.

Raising Awareness

With over 53,600 website views and 38,380 visitors since inception, Facebook and Instagram profiles were also launched to further disseminate information through paid advertising. When the COVID-19 Business Info Hub was launched in 2020 it had zero followers, and its social media presence grown to over 9,350 followers and users had reposted over 8,400,000 times by 2022. The online community is thriving, with over 224,900 engagements, where SMEs reacted, commented, asked questions, and interacted with the content.

Visit the Covid-19 Business Info Hub 

Key Learnings

A few key learnings from the launch of the platform in 2020 to early 2022 include:

  • Videos and animations are essential for engaging with SMEs. Out of the top three most engaged Facebook posts, two were video animations including tips for their business and testimonials from other entrepreneurs.
  • Facebook has been the most successful platform in engaging with entrepreneurs, however, other platforms and search engines have supported in organically increasing outreach. Following trends and developing content in tandem has led to an increase in search engine referrals, which shows the value of the platform in providing much-needed support for Ugandan entrepreneurs.
  • Women need to be specifically targeted to reach gender parity. On average, women’s visitors account for 39% of total visitors. In order to support women entrepreneurs through their additional challenges and increase gender parity, it is critical to create content specifically targeting women entpreneurs. Moreover, when creating targeted promotions, we have seen a decrease in bounce rates and improvement in time spent per page, showing that the website content resonates with the audience and meets their needs.
  • Website views and visitors are closely correlated to the release and promotion of new pieces. Weekly traffic analyses demonstrate that it is vital to publish new materials and advertise as often as possible to drive visits to the portal and keep up to date with trends.
  • Partners are critical in bringing new perspectives and content development. Most viewed pieces are those referring to Stanbic Bank. Moreover, the bank is crucial in increasing content distribution and expanding outreach via WhatsApp and their databases.


Stanbic Business Incubator

Business Training During the Pandemic: Experiences, Lessons and Recommendations from the Stanbic Business Incubator Limited 

ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

As the pandemic enters its third year, governments and the private sector reflect on the lessons learned from COVID-19. The last two years have yielded extensive data on how external shocks and crisis response can affect the business community.  

Stanbic Business Incubator Limited (SBIL) has played a key role in supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda, guiding many businesses through the pandemic’s perpetual twists and turns while helping them to make sense of the information overflow. To benefit from these lessons, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub will highlight SBIL’s experience throughout the pandemic in an effort to benefit the Ugandan business community. 

Founded in 2018 and operating under Stanbic Uganda Holdings Limited, the Stanbic Business Incubator Limited runs capacity building and entrepreneurship development programs for SMEs. In 2021 alone,  SBIL managed to train over 700 business owners from various sectors and more than 4500 entrepreneurs across Uganda. Drawing from SBIL’s experience in training SMEs through the pandemic, this series will focus on the experience of the Incubator’s experts and training staff through interviews and first-hand discussions. Our readers can expect insight into different topics, including: 

  • A high-level overview of SBIL’s impact, responses, and opportunities for SMEs as they navigate the pandemic 
  • An exploration of SBIL’s partnerships and upcoming programs helps to outline what it prioritizes for members of the business development workshop. 
  • Reflecting on 2021’s selection of training programs, Incubator staff discuss the experience of the program’s exiting alumni so businesses can learn from their peers 
  • First-hand interviews with alumni and non-members help to better understand SMEs biggest needs while sharing frontline experience as they navigate the pandemic 

Over the next five articles, we’ll help SMEs understand the unfolding business environment with experience from SBIL’s practitioners, managers and businessowners. Readers are likely to find business insights that will help in developing new strategies and tactics to maintain their business competitiveness while responding to the fast-changing conditions of an evolving pandemic. 

Interested businessowners may be interested in SBIL’s upcoming schedule of master classes, training events, cohorts and partnership events. Similarly, readers may be interested in the Compassionate Leadership Webinar Series, which provides training through a slate of webinars. Updates on all these programs and more will be available on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub. 

Ultimately, the coming series of articles provides opportunity for businesses to benefit from peer-learning and the guidance of an industry stalwart. We look forward to you joining us.  

 


wellbeing

SME Response Clinic hosts webinar on Practical Solutions for Improving the Wellbeing of Women Entrepreneurs

A version of this article was originally posted on the SME Response Clinic

 

The SME Response Clinic held a webinar on practical solutions for improving the wellbeing of women entrepreneurs at Kigali Public Library on the 8th of December 2021. The webinar was part of the Building Back Healthier Series that was launched with a talk show on KT Radio on the 18thof October 2021 and followed another webcast on practical strategies to deal with stress held in November. The series is organized in partnership with the Geruka Healing Centre.

The objective of the webinar was to inform, inspire, and share knowledge and skills that businesswomen can use to better their wellbeing when dealing with day-to-day stresses of running a business while managing other responsibilities. In addition, the webinar dove into practical techniques for increasing psychological safety and productivity and how to optimize the workplace especially for women entrepreneurs.

The webinar featured a mental health expert, Adelite Mukamana, M.Sc., with two active businesswomen, Scovia Umutoni and Amina Umhoza. Mme. Mukamana started the session with a fantastic example to help the audience have an in-depth appreciation of mental health and wellbeing:

 

Our mind is like an engine of any car.  No matter how good-looking the car might seem on the outside, without the engine, it wouldn’t start. The car can only move when the engine is working in full force. Think about your mental health and wellbeing like that. When something is wrong with your car engine, you look for a mechanic. The moment you feel that your mental health or wellbeing is struggling, look for professional help.” 

 

 

Scovia’s Experience:

Scovia Umutoni is Founder of KGL Flour Limited, an agribusiness factory that produces maize flour – locally known as Kawunga – and animal feed. Before the pandemic, she was employed elsewhere, but she lost her job like many others when the pandemic hit. Undeterred, she decided to invest her savings to create her own business.

While exciting, it proved to be a very challenging time because once she started her business operations, Rwanda went into lockdown, putting everything on hold.

By the time lockdown was over, while many businesses were back up and running, Scovia’s target market including schools and hotels were still not operational. She started to feel frustrated and uncertain about the future. Scovia thought quickly and decided to change her approach, targeting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She has been serving customers in DRC since then, and as Rwanda has begun to recover, she has started to deliver her products locally.

Scovia believes that women entrepreneurs often face specific challenges based on the fact they are women. When she ordered a corn flour machine to start her business from a local businessman, Scovia struggled to get the machine in the agreed-upon two week period. It took engaging male friends to visit the provider with her for Scovia to get the machine two weeks later than promised. Scovia is certain that had she been a male entrepreneur, she would not have had to resort to engaging friends to help her. This is just one example of common obstacles faced by women entrepreneurs, many of whom were also disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

During the pandemic, Scovia took a step back to reflect on her businesses and to think of new strategies to improve operations. Recognizing the importance of her own wellbeing, she took a number of actions to improve her mental health, including listening to music. Her business life is not without challenges – she still faces challenges like being a woman in a male-dominated industry and travel restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic – but she doesn’t intend to stop. Scovia has learned that challenges will always exist, and what is important is to look for solutions to deal with them.

 

Amina’s Experience:

Amina Umuhoza is Founder and CEO of SAYE – DUKATAZE LTD, which aims to fight unintended pregnancies in young Rwandan women due to menstruation stigma. Her company provides young women with reproductive health information, menstrual hygiene management, and economic empowerment by selling products produced by young women through technology and community engagement.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed SAYE’s operations, and like many other businesses, the company took its business online during lockdowns. This major shift in operations led Amina and her colleagues to question whether they would attain their goals, and Amina had to work hard to balance competing priorities. For instance, the company had to use profits planned for investment to instead pay employee salaries to ensure proper staffing and employee satisfaction. Choices like these have allowed Amina to ensure SAYE continues delivering on its business and social objectives throughout the challenges of the pandemic.

Like Scovia, Amina also faces challenges unique to being a woman entrepreneur. A key example is negative comments from others, including social media bullying. It is not uncommon for Amina to receive questions about plans to marry when she posts about new products or partnerships. She believes that these comments come from cultural beliefs about the role of women, but things have started to change as the government has been educating Rwandans on the role of a woman in societal, family, and personal development.

The hardest part of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic for Amina was to ensure she was strong and resilient for herself as well as for her co-workers and employees. Amina used the lockdown as productively as possible to ensure a positive mindset, reflecting on herself and catching up on important paperwork. This cheered her up, and that feeling encouraged her to reach out to co-workers through virtual platforms. Amina also managed to take care of action items she had postponed or put off pre-pandemic, which provided SAYE with new opportunities after lockdown.

Building Back Healthier:

Scovia and Amina seek to thrive as businesswomen, but this is not always easy. Both receive negative comments based on stereotypes nearly every day; for example, the idea that as women entrepreneurs they can only be successful if they are married. Adelite Mukamana disagrees with this stereotype. “We often hear that the development of women depends on a man. Scovia and Amina are true examples that a businesswoman can run her business smoothly and shine through all circumstances, and we hope they are good examples to our fellow women in the Rwandan society,” she says.

Both entrepreneurs agreed on one fact – one chooses her or his own mentality, and a positive sense of wellbeing is key to carrying on in the face of adversity. Adelite Mukamana agrees. “We act how we think, and we decide how to think,” she says.

Women entrepreneurs are typically challenged by balancing work and home life. Amina believes that marrying to a partner who supports you and who understands your vision is a crucial element for a success as a businesswoman. Mme Adelite Mukamana, both an expert in her field and a mother, advised businesswomen to not be afraid of having families since a woman is a human being that is capable of carrying out multiple tasks. She advised women to launch businesses regardless of their family lives if they’re confident they can do it. She also pointed out that men shouldn’t be threatened by women’s economic empowerment and their partners’ success but instead focus on growing together.

Visit the SME Response Clinic for tips for entrepreneurs to support their mental health and wellbeing. We also invite you to keep an eye on our social media platforms for entrepreneurs’ stories on how their businesses are prioritizing mental health and wellbeing, as part of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic challenges. You can find us on YouTube,Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Submission


Women Entrepreneurs and Leaders in Rwanda

Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs this March with the SME Response Clinic – Insights from Women Entrepreneurs and Leaders  

A version of this article was originally posted on the SME Response Clinic

As we continue to celebrate March, the women’s history month, the SME Response Clinic is pleased to share with you a recap of some of the highlights from our engagements with women entrepreneurs and leaders in Rwanda over the past two years. Women entrepreneurs play a vital role in developing Rwanda’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and make a tremendous contribution to the nation’s economy. Join us in celebrating women entrepreneurs this month and throughout the year! 

Here are some of the highlights:  

Webinar on “Practical Solutions for Improving the Wellbeing of Women Entrepreneurs” 

On 8 December 2021, the SME Response Clinic, in partnership with Geruka Healing Center, held a webinar featuring women entrepreneurs at the Kigali Public Library as part of the Building Back Healthier series. The webinar’s objective was to inform, inspire and share knowledge and skills that businesswomen can use to better their wellbeing as they deal with their day-to-day business activities while managing other responsibilities. The webinar featured a mental health expert, Adelite Mukamana and two businesswomen, Scovia Umutoni and Amina Umuhoza. 

Learn More 

Interview with Her Excellency Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, former Deputy Governor of National Bank of Rwanda and current Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission 

In July 2020, the SME Response Clinic interviewed Her Excellency Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa to understand the barriers women face in accessing information to help them better manage their businesses. During the interview, H.E. Dr. Monique emphasized the importance of not just making information available online but also mobilizing women to access that knowledge with a personal touch.  

Watch the video to learn more 

Learn about AMI’s Business Survival Bootcamp from Justine Ntaganda, owner of La Cornicle Hotel Rubavu and Nyabihu 

Justine Ntanganda, a businesswoman who co-owns La Cornicle Hotel operating in Rubavu and Nyabihu districts, attended a Business Survival Bootcamp training organized by the SME Response Clinic in partnership with the African Management Institute. Ms. Ntanganda shared with the SME Response Clinic more about what she learned.  

Watch the video to learn more 

To learn more about AMI training offers in Rwanda, visit: Africa Management Institute 


Fintechs, female economy, Mexico fintechs

How Fintechs Can Capture the Female Economy

Women represent the world’s largest and fastest growing financial market. They are expected to control more than $216 trillion in wealth.[1] They are also strong savers, loyal and reliable customers and better credit risks than men.[2] Yet, women are often excluded from formal financial services. Only 65% of women have a bank account, compared with 72% of men, and this gender gap is 3 times larger when it comes to use of fintechs.

While fintechs have transformed the financial landscape recently and are uniquely positioned to close this gender gap, many fintechs are overlooking the women’s market. To help fintechs embrace this opportunity, ConsumerCentriX conducted research for a study called “How Fintechs Can Capture the Female Economy” commissioned by the Financial Alliance for Women. The report lays out a map that fintechs can use to improve their conversion rates for women within each stage of the sales funnel. By addressing the unmet needs and barriers that women face in accessing the financial market, fintechs can attract and retain more women customers, reduce customer acquisition costs, and boost revenues.

Although women are generally drawn to digital financial services, there are particular drop-off points in their uptake at different stages of the sales funnel. For instance, fintechs that use tailored marketing messaging to reflect women’s needs will attract more women to their platforms as opposed to one-size-fits-all messaging. If the signup procedure is lengthy or the language is convoluted then fewer women will sign up for the service. Unconscious algorithmic bias can affect how many women get approved for loans. Once women are signed up and approved, their product usage needs to be nurtured.

Fintechs can make significant business gains by developing an intentional focus on women throughout the stages of the sales funnel. Here’s how:

  • Most fintechs apply a gender-neutral approach to their marketing campaigns that doesn’t account for women’s behaviors and their differing realities. Fintechs should create gender-differentiated marketing campaigns that appeal to women and motivate them to click through the website. Our research found that by attracting as many women as men to their site, fintechs could see up to a 12% increase in revenue.
  • Fintechs typically face high drop-off rates before sign up, in all verticals and across all customer segments. Many women customers drop off because the registration process is time-consuming and cumbersome. Fintechs should focus on creating a user-friendly process and demonstrating product value. Our research found that by converting women at the same rate as men, revenue could increase by 70%.
  • Women customers are denied approval more often than men because the underwriting algorithms are embedded with unconscious bias. Fintechs should create a qualifying stage in the sales funnel for products such as credit and insurance and exclude qualifying criteria in which women are structurally disadvantaged but have no bearing on their performance as customers, like type of employment or education. Our research found that by removing bias in the credit algorithm, lending fintechs could increase gross margins by 20%.
  • When women customers have signed up, the goal is to encourage activity by creating a sense of community and promoting organic marketing with user-generated content. Our research found that by actively engaging with registered female customers, monthly revenue could increase by 15%.
  • Satisfied women customers are more loyal than men, have higher net promoter scores and will purchase more in cross-sales than men. By leveraging the positive experiences of women customers and tapping into the power of female referrals, fintechs can accelerate their organic customer growth by 50%.

While many fintechs have failed to design products that reach the women’s market, there are exceptions like Kubo Financiero, a fintech that provides loans and savings products across Mexico. Kubo posts financial education content on their Facebook and WhatsApp groups that targets their women customers and promotes personal interaction with their customer service agents by making them easily accessible through WhatsApp texting or video calls. Additionally, the company discovered a significantly higher drop-off rate during the registration process for women compared to their male peers.  By paying attention to their data, they were able to increase the female customer signup rate by 14% through redesigning a more user-friendly registration page and revising the language.

“If you have healthy finances, it’s super easy to activate your credit [with Kubo Financiero].”

Lisa, a Kubo customer, needed capital to fund her daughter’s education but was looking for more than a loan from her bank and wanted access to financial education information as well. She regularly engages with Kubo’s WhatsApp groups to gain insights on her financial health. Lisa recommended using Kubo because it’s more accessible, informative and effective for her.

What’s next: Fintech investors are still in the early stages of assessing an investment with a gender-lens and many indicated that they need more evidence for the business case. This research clearly shows the value of focusing on women customers through gender-intelligent fintech design.  Addressing the unmet needs of women is a win-win situation. By applying a gender lens and asking the right questions, investors and fintechs alike can capture the female economy, improving their revenue and profitability while advancing women’s financial inclusion.


women in Sub-Saharan Africa

Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment Mapping Tool: Spotlighting Opportunities for Impact in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where women make up the majority of entrepreneurs. But, delve a little deeper and you will find that women face steep social and economic barriers to growing their businesses. While access to finance is the key constraint, they are also much more likely to be hindered due to household responsibilities and are less likely to have the market skills to advance their businesses. Removing these barriers could unleash a huge opportunity for women entrepreneurs and boost economic growth in the region.

The European Investment Bank (or EIB) launched the African Women Rising Initiative (AWRI) to support women’s economic empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa by identifying effective environments for growth, increasing access to finance, and supporting women entrepreneurs in selected countries. The AWRI aims to strengthen women-led or -owned businesses through designing holistic, market-oriented programs, bolstering business skills, and developing gender intelligent financial services.

As a first step for the AWRI, ConsumerCentriX (CCX), as part of the Consortium with German-based technical advisory group IPC and African Management Institute (AMI), set out to identify the strongest opportunities for impacting women entrepreneurs in Africa. CCX conducted a comprehensive mapping exercise that assessed the current state of financial inclusion for women, women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment initiatives, as well as innovations in financial technology, and digital banking. Based on this exercise, the team identified countries in the region that have substantial gaps in gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, however, their macro and social environments could enable a financial sector intervention that fosters progress. 

Mapping Methodology

Women entrepreneurs are not evenly distributed across Sub-Saharan Africa. The region is made up of 48 countries at varying stages of development and some places offer a more conducive environment for women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses with the support of formal financial services. In order to better understand women’s financial and economic inclusion opportunities, we created a scoring system based on 65 publicly available indicators from sources such as the Global Findex[1]. Not all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were surveyed by the Findex which limited the comparable data, but in many cases, other indicators were able to be substituted from other sources like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Economist Intelligence Unit, as well as Citibank and Mastercard data that illustrate macroeconomic, demographic, political-regulatory, and socioeconomic dynamics within each country. Additional sector-specific datasets contributed a broader understanding of the stage of development and inclusiveness of the financial sector. We then ranked each country according to their stage of development as indicated by the gross national income (GNI) per capita and compared them based on the indicators.

The indicators were categorized into four overarching themes that tested each country’s receptivity to potential financial inclusion efforts based on their legal or socio-cultural constraints and women’s access to finance. The categories included:

  1. Enabling Environment: Provided a snapshot of each country’s development stage by assessing the general economic and demographic environment through indicators like conflict, debt, GNI per capita and GDP, and population characteristics;
  2. Women’s Inclusion and Human Capital: Assessed women’s socio-economic position including factors that influence their productivity and opportunity to build capital;
  3. Women’s Entrepreneurship: Analyzed the ease of doing business in each country and women’s typical role within the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector; and
  4. Financial Sector: Focused on the availability of financial services through different channels, the regulatory environment, and the sector’s inclusivity and capacity to serve entrepreneurs with financing.

Ultimately, the CCX team created an effective tool that swiftly facilitates benchmarking of countries in Africa (and beyond) for our work on impact consulting in women’s financial inclusion and entrepreneurship support. Additionally, the tool includes permanent links to the respective databases utilized for the mapping exercise.

Results

During the mapping exercise, 19 countries were immediately omitted from the selection process based on insurmountable obstacles to a long-term technical assistance engagement like extensive violent conflict and significant debt distress. Countries with extremely small populations were also not carried onto the shortlist due to their lack of scalability and potential impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to narrow the playing field even further, we categorized countries in Sub-Saharan Africa into five groups based on their development stage. Each country was ranked according to threshold criteria against peer countries within each group. Countries were excluded from consideration if the socio-economic challenges or gender gaps they were facing could not be realistically addressed with financial inclusion or women’s economic empowerment initiatives. To advance to the next round, countries needed to score 60-70% on average across all indicators when compared to the top country within each group.

Countries that met the threshold had significant room for improvement in women’s entrepreneurship and inclusivity in the formal financial sector that could be addressed by the areas intended for the AWRI technical assistance, namely empowering women entrepreneurs and creating gender-intelligent and innovative SME financing solutions. In other words: these countries indicated a substantial potential for growth compared to their best-in-class African peers, while also presenting a sufficiently conducive environment for impact through the AWRI support.

Based on this scoring system, a shortlist of 16 countries qualified including Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda.

EIB selected Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda were selected as the four finalists. These countries have healthy percentages of  SMEs t

hat are women-led or -owned, have financial institutions with existing relationships with EIB that are interested in better serving women entrepreneurs, show strong potential for growth with existing conducive regulatory and social environments and/or the opportunity to leverage digital channels to deepen financial inclusion and women’s economic empowerment.

Below is  brief overview of the four finalist countries:

  • Côte d’Ivoire is the business hub of French-speaking West Africa with strong prevalence of private business and self-employment with an established financial sector, fast-growing microfinance activity and strong digital uptake;
  • Rwanda has high women’s labor force participation (84%) and a supportive public sector, a national financial inclusion strategy and investment climate which offers strong opportunities for digitization;
  • Senegal is a majority Muslim country that has a relatively high degree of gender equality in early-stage entrepreneurship, with a high share of female entrepreneurship and strong remittances which could serve as a source of funding for women business owners; and
  • Uganda is an attractive market for business investment given its stable economy, large market, and the size of its labor force with a financial inclusion strategy that is generally supportive of women’s economic activities.

The mapping exercise was successful in identifying countries in the region that are more favorable to women’s economic inclusion and empowerment and serves as a useful tool for understanding country contexts in the financial sector in other regions throughout the world.

Women in Sub-Saharan Africa face universal constraints as entrepreneurs and EIB’s AWRI program will now support organizations that can increase women’s financial inclusion by developing quality programs involving access to finance, training and other non-financial services to support woman entrepreneurs’ growth.

[1] The Global Findex is a publicly available data set on how adults save, borrow, make payments and manage risk that is published every three years by the World Bank. Data is collected in partnership with over 140 economies through nationally representative surveys.


Leadership for Entrepreneurs

Compassionate Leadership for Entrepreneurs Series: Leading with the Heart

ConsumerCentriX, in partnership with Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited (or Stanbic Bank), kicked off the first webinar in its Compassionate Leadership for Entrepreneurs Series on November 4th, 2021, under the theme “Leading with Heart: Adapting to a New Normal in a Tough Business Environment.” The webinar explored how the bank and other key businesses in the market adapted to the current business climate given the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of using compassionate leadership as a business strategy.

The webinar was moderated by Maurice Mugisha, a Ugandan journalist and Managing Director of Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, and the panel included Emma Mugisha, Executive Director and Head of Business Banking at Stanbic Bank, Dr. Peter Kimbowa, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Thadeus Musoke Nagenda, Ag. Chairman of Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), and Isaac Nsereko, Managing Director of RI Distributors Ltd.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda has led to waves of lockdowns and business closures, making it impossible for businesses to continue day-to-day operations as usual. The disruptions have heavily affected decision-making, employee management, and the bottom line for businesses. All of the panellists agreed that leading with compassion during these extraordinary times has been essential. For them, this has meant listening to their employees and the concerns of their customer base, challenging the assumptions behind their convictions, and being ready to adapt to a constantly changing environment.

A few key themes emerged from the discussion:

Work together. As business leaders, it’s important to share best practices and ask others to join in utilizing compassionate leadership. If more business leaders share their knowledge on how to listen to employees and customers, challenge assumptions, and adapt quickly in a changing environment then institutions will improve, and the economy will be strengthened. In the case of KACITA, the largest trader block in Kampala, Mr. Nagenda explained that most of the shopping malls its businesses operate out of were closed during the lockdowns. KACITA approached the government and advocated for the reopening of arcades so that its business owners could continue doing business and making a living. Due to the shutdowns, the company also asked for a moratorium on rent for the business owners. Mr. Nagenda that “most of the [arcade] landlords are also traders and part of KACITA” and they began working together to find solutions.

Adapting to change is imperative. Leaders should approach challenges as opportunities to shift their ways of working. The pandemic forced many sectors to embrace change through digitization, whether that included investing in ways for their staff to work from home or making loans available to more customers through mobile banking. In the case of Stanbic Bank, Mrs. Mugisha mentioned adjusting working hours to better fit customer and employee needs and implementing changes so staff could work from home comfortably. As the pandemic dragged on, more customers began to default on their loan payments and the bank “put in place repayment extensions to relieve the customers who were affected by the pandemic,” said Mrs. Mugisha. Focusing on the mission of the business instead of the structure allows businesses to adapt to a new normal. 

Trust is essential. The most valuable component of an institution is its people. A leader must build and maintain trust with employees in order to make compassionate leadership sustainable. When suppliers cut off credit lines, RI Distributors, one of the largest logistics trading companies in Uganda, focused on preserving the business through adapting their supply chain lines and establishing trust with their truck drivers by launching a number of key safety measures. First, they divested in long-term projects and focused on ramping up COVID-19 testing stations for their truck drivers. The business also hired more drivers so to ensure adherence to safer social distancing policies through a more flexible driver rotation schedule. Mr. Nsereko said; “I think it’s compassionate leadership that knows the business will [have the opportunity to focus on making] money in the future and chooses to look after their people now, in a sustainable way, in order to stay in business.”

Continue to Innovate. As institutions and leaders’ transition, make adjustments and recover from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remain curious and willing to adapt. Continued disruption can make it really difficult to make a concrete plan for the future, but it can lead a company to develop better practices. NSSF, the largest social security fund in Uganda, launched a leadership ‘Think Box’ in order to continue to innovate and tackle the biggest challenges, particularly how to avoid layoffs and keep employees fulfilled while working from home. Dr. Kimbowa is proud of the results of these efforts – NSFF largely retained its staff, and reminds others that “firing people during hard times is in itself an admission of failed imagination [for leadership].” Continue to assess your beliefs and processes and make sure not to revert back to ineffective ways of working.

Compassionate leadership is essential in building resilient companies that survive in the face of adversity. The health and wellbeing of employees and clients should continue to be a priority for leaders in order to build a stronger and brighter future. Join us for the next instalment of the series that is planned for the first quarter of 2022.