Seedstars launches a program for female-founded businesses.

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Seedstars’ Enhancing Women Entrepreneurship in Africa (EWEA) program is calling for women-led small to medium enterprises (WSMEs) as well as community enablers and entrepreneurship support programs in Africa to apply for its mentorship, skills capacity-building workshop series. Interested WSMEs and enablers can sign up here before December 31. 

Women entrepreneurs face multiple challenges to accessing finance, with an estimated $42 billion financing gap for African women across business value chains. According to the United Nations’ Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study, around 56% of women entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa cite either unprofitability or lack of finances as a reason for closing down their businesses. 

EWEA determined some of the biggest obstacles women face in business include a lack of an enabling environment for women businesses to grow their skills, thrive, and rise to management positions. Nevertheless, in terms of potential, they are as efficient and growth-oriented as male-owned businesses.

Over the years, many promising entrepreneurship support programs such as incubators, accelerators, university-based innovation hubs, maker spaces, technology parks, and co-working spaces across the continent have opened their doors to help support more women-led businesses.

However, these enablers are often limited in the support they are able to provide WSMEs due to lack of funding and network access, as well as lack of well-positioned services.

According to Malado Kaba, Director of Gender, Women, and Civil Society at African Development Bank, “We know that aside from access to finance, women entrepreneurs need skills and a supportive business ecosystem. The Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa, a flagship initiative of the African Development Bank, is pleased to work with Seedstars, which was selected as one of ten organizations in our inaugural cohort of Women’s Entrepreneurship Enablers. The project’s grants are expected to support 88 organizations reaching 540 WSMEs with access to 6,000 mentoring hours and 90 investors through this program across 11 countries.”

Through a collaboration with the African Development Bank’s AFAWA initiative and GrowthAfrica, the EWEA program is set to provide long-term and scalable capacity building, access to mentorship, access to funding, and access to visibility for both WSMEs and community enablers in Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Zambia. WSMEs

Women entrepreneurs in the region who would like to participate in the program must meet the following requirements:

  • Must be based in Africa;
  • Have at least one woman on the founding team;
  • Have a digital element in their product (for example: mobile application, online shop, software as a service product, etc.); and,
  • Demonstrate interest in learning more about how to get ready for investment.

WSMEs that participate in the EWEA program will be provided with mentorship through the Seedstars network as well as access to the Investment Readiness Program through the Seedstars Online Academy.

Community enablers

Enabler beneficiaries are understood to be entrepreneur support organizations that are any of the following:

  • Groups that exclusively support WSMEs,
  • Organizations that have a mix of women-dedicated and gender-agnostic activities, 
  • Gender-agnostic ESOs that want to expand their capacity to support WSMEs.

Participating organizations will be given access to mentorship, workshops, and a capacity-building program through the Seedstars Online Academy.

The EWEA program is a collaboration between the AFAWA (Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa) Initiative, Seedstars, and GrowthAfrica. AFAWA’s first round of 10 Women Entrepreneurship Enablers can be found here.

How to Apply 

Interested WSMEs and enablers can sign up here before December 31.