Is Africa witnessing a new breed of women entrepreneurs?

The old story of low-skilled women entrepreneurs in the informal sector may be about to be rewritten by a fresh wave of tech-savvy and well educated women entrepreneurs. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, GroFin would like to celebrate such women and their contribution to Africa’s growth story.

If the past is any indication, women entrepreneurs have not had an easy time of it. And, African women have had it even harder. According to figures from the World Bank, while worldwide, at least 30 percent of women in the non-agricultural labour force are self-employed in the informal sector; in Africa, this figure is as high as 63 percent.

But is this about to change? The World Bank study also points out that today, increasingly, women are making major strides in educational attainment at primary and secondary levels, pointing to an emerging breed of women who can become knowledge-based entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

With global financial institutions like the World Bank dedicating exclusive resources such as the Female Entrepreneurship Resource Programme and private financiers such as GroFin dedicating a third of their portfolio to female-led small and growing businesses, African women entrepreneurs may be set for a brighter future than ever before.

Indeed, with its unique combination of finance and business support, a model such as GroFin’s is eminently suited to women entrepreneurs who require active guidance and mentoring to take their business forward.

Needless to say, taking the plunge from secure jobs is harder for women, given that the entrepreneurial world blurs boundaries between the home front and the workspace. It is then even more commendable to see the rise of GroFin women entrepreneurs such as Lilian from Tanzania’s Daystar School who left a secure job at the airport, ex-banker Latifat from Nigeria’s Hatlab Ice Cream, and Phyllis from Kenya’s Phyma Fresh, who was formerly the Administrative & Marketing Manager at Tour Africa Safaris Ltd.

While the initial decision to start their own business is hard to take, the dividends that GroFin women entrepreneurs reap are clear from the growth surge such women-led enterprises experience post GroFin support.

From Lilian, who started small with 5 private pupils and today owns a flourishing school with over 550 students, to Latifat, who pursued a course in ice-cream making before opening her first ice-cream parlour that has multiplied today to a chain of three outlets with over 40 employees, to Phyllis who majored in marketing and is today taking her agri-processing business Phyma Fresh to new frontiers together with husband James, GroFin’s women entrepreneurs are not scared to venture into unchartered shores and conquer new territory.

With this new breed of well-educated and highly skilled women entrepreneurs taking advantage of GroFin’s support model, there has never been a better time for African women entrepreneurs who are willing to leave the comfort of secure jobs to pursue their passion for entrepreneurship.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, GroFin would like to fete such intrepid women entrepreneurs, and encourage them to keep exploring new frontiers. With the campaign theme for 2016 being #PLEDGEFORPARITY, this new breed of confident and ambitious women entrepreneurs in Africa is sure to take the continent a step closer to bridging the gender divide.