In most rural or underserved markets in Africa starting a business is a difficult task for several reasons: Capital is hard to come by, there’s minimal access to technology and the business ecosystem lacks the necessary community. These challenges coupled with cultural norms and gender inequality make it unnecessarily difficult for women to start and run sustainable businesses.
Without access to financial services, women micro-entrepreneurs are at a risk of remaining at the margins of economic opportunity with little hope of realizing their tremendous entrepreneurial potential.
At Cherehani Africa we leverage mobile-based technology to provide credit, to distribute personalized financial literacy content and to provide agricultural market linkages to women and adolescent girls aged 17 – 19 years who own micro-enterprises. A majority of our customers are small scale farmers, vegetable/cereal vendors, retail shop owners and tailors.
Mobile technology has transformed how we do business with each other but there are fewer women getting access to the opportunities presented by digital technology in the business arena. We provide our customers with affordable access to smartphones through a pay-to-own model to enable them access the endless opportunities in the digital economy. We leverage a front line of group-based ambassadors to build self-trust amongst customers in their ability to learn and adapt new technology.
Our customers are members of locally registered groups of between 10-25 members based on their business type (mostly common business type in close proximity). These are formal groups that meet often and are run by elected officials. The loan products are issued to individuals but membership and continued participation in the registered groups is a prerequisite. The inherent peer-to-peer pressure amongst members’ drive loan repayment and is key to building a robust business ecosystem in underserved markets. Adolescent girls and younger women access adequate mentorship as members share their business experiences during meetings.
The tailors we worked with when starting our financial inclusion journey, through offering asset financing of sewing machines, enabled us to learn and research deeply about the pain points for women micro-entrepreneurs operating in rural markets. We want Cherehani Africa to be the company that truly makes it easy for women and adolescent girls across Africa to run sustainable micro-enterprises. Transforming business ecosystems in underserved markets starts with building community and expanding access to technology, finance, knowledge and markets.