Absa Bank’s SHE Star Program impacts over 1300 women entrepreneurs

Absa Bank has announced that the SHE Star Program has impacted over 1300 women-owned small businesses since it was launched in 2021. The businesses benefited from the program after undergoing through blended finance and business development services capacity building aimed at increasing the growth and competitiveness of women owned MSMEs.

The SHE Star programme, is a collaboration between Absa with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Employment and Skills for Development in Africa (E4D) Programme that is supported by Yunus Environment Hub (YEH). Its aim was to fast-track the economic recovery of 1,500 women-owned Micro, Small and Medium Businesses impacted by the Covid-19 economic situation and increased climate risks.

The SHE Stars program has supported women from various sectors in Kenya with mentorship sessions such as the concept of social business, circular economy, disruption management & business continuity, human resource management, investor readiness, and much more. Through 12 weeks of active live sessions from experienced coaches, the SHE Stars had access to information through knowledge cafes and funding opportunities from Absa Bank Plc and other funding institutions. Additionally, through assignments available on the Yunus Environment Hub StartNow platform and close support from experienced and accredited business mentors (Big Sisters), the SHE Stars could incorporate what they learned into their businesses, considering their context, core activity, and development stage.

Speaking during the graduation ceremony for the final cohort of 402 women entrepreneurs at a Nairobi Hotel, Yunus Environment Hub Chairman Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus reiterated the vital role women play in transforming communities around them. He reiterated the urgency of empowering women through the concept of social business to lead and run successful businesses and alleviate poverty.

“To overcome poverty and the flaws of the economic crisis in our society, we need to envision a social life where women are empowered. We have to free our mind, imagine what has never happened before and write social fiction.” Yunus Environment Hub chairman Nobel Peace Prize Laurette Professor Muhammad Yunus.

On her part, Yunus Environment Hub Co-founder and Managing Director Christina Jager outlined women’s crucial role in climate action and business leadership. She noted that better involvement and integration of women into decision-making and programs like the SHE Stars program are vital to delivering climate mitigation and adaptation policies and solutions.

“Women entrepreneurs play an integral role in business, supporting their families and in the fight against climate change. At Yunus Environment Hub, we are glad to be part of the incredible success stories of the SHE Stars. We will continue supporting women to enhance their business capacities and adopt more resilient, sustainable, green practices.” Christina Jager, Co-founder and Managing Director, Yunus Environment Hub.

The SHE Stars program has incredibly contributed to SHE Stars’ growth at all levels. When asked about the program’s impact on their businesses, the SHE Stars affirmed that the blended sessions equipped them with the tools and skills to capitalise on their business models to drive social and environmental change in Kenya and beyond. Their testimonials indicated that as a result of the training, they have grown to recognise the broader landscape in which they thrive.

“Becoming a more green, circular, and environmentally friendly business requires a commitment to sustainability and a willingness to invest in eco-friendly practices and technologies. I have managed to reduce energy, water consumption, and use eco-friendly products. I have struggled with employing as I did not know how to do it. After attending the human resource session, I got four people on a contractual basis.” Sophia Kawira, Founder, Waridi Medimpact Limited Kenya

The GIZ Country Director Bodo Immink, underscored Germany’s commitment to create decent employment and sustainable jobs for women and youth through MSME development.

“At the heart of our commitment to MSME development is the firm belief that women entrepreneurs are key drivers of economic growth, thanks to their ability to create jobs, foster innovation, promote diversity, and generate positive social and environmental outcomes. By empowering women and youth to become successful MSME owners, we aim to unlock their full potential as agents of change who can make a real difference in the world. Our focus is creating decent employment and sustainable jobs for women and youth underscores our unwavering commitment to building a more inclusive, prosperous, and sustainable society.” said Mr. Immink.

On his part, Absa Bank’s Chief Executive Officer Abdi Mohamed said: “As a bank, our commitment to the women’s agenda extends beyond our organization and the products and services we provide. It is on this premise that we hope to directly impact over one million women entrepreneurs across the country by 2025 with requisite financial and non-financial support to scale up and take their businesses to the next level. We believe this will create a ripple effect on a lot more people in our society, including the people employed by these businesses, their families, their suppliers and even the customers that they serve. We also take this opportunity to congratulate our graduates from the third and fourth cohorts and urge them to serve as a beacon of hope to other women looking to break the ceiling.”

The E4D programme is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and co-funded in Kenya by the European Union (EU), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). It is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.