Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for about 90% of all businesses in Africa – and women own about a third of all registered SMEs in the continent. Indeed, one in four adult women in Africa start or manage a business.
Women have not, however, enjoyed equal access to high-quality, demand-driven financial services. The African Development Bank estimates that women-owned SMEs face a US$42 billion financing gap, making lack of access to financing a common constraint to their business growth.
Ecobank Kenya Managing Director Cheikh Travaly, said during the formal launch of Ellevate by Ecobank in Kenya at the Nairobi Serena Hotel in September 2022: “The growth of women-led and women-focused businesses have been long hampered by a range of impediments, including access to finance.
“We have specially designed Ellevate to meet the needs of women entrepreneurs through the provision of comprehensive, customised and tailor-made solutions which include favourable lending rates, smart cash management enablement and a suite of value-added services such as leadership training, mentoring and networking opportunities. Ecobank Commercial Bank is allocating a minimum of 10% of its loan portfolio to women’s businesses.
“Women-led businesses are a largely underserved market and Ecobank Kenya is determined to help them reach their potential, grasp business opportunities and become both scalable and sustainable. This will enable them to play a major role in Africa’s social and economic development, in addition to creating thousands of the jobs needed by this and future generations of Kenyans.”
During the Nairobi launch event, Ecobank Kenya donated over 6,700 sanitary pads to County Girls High School and Immaculate Hearts Don Bosco centre to support young girls from needy backgrounds.
Ecobank hopes that Ellevate will attract at least 5,000 businesses led or owned by women each year, while lending at least $100m to them annually on favourable terms. A wide range of different organisations have already been supported, from schools and hotels to fashion retailers.