Ecobank Kenya launches Ellevate to empower women-led businesses

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A gender split consciousness is racing worldwide, and countries’ leaders, investors, and company boards are close on its tail, pressing for diversity and diminished gender imbalance in the funding environment.

SMEs account for around 90% of all African firms, and women hold roughly one-third of all licensed African SMEs. Indeed, one in every four adult women in Africa (25.9%) starts or manages a business and yet earns only 1% of venture capitalist funding (VCs).

Women-owned SMEs are expected to face a US$42 billion funding gap, making access to financing a significant limitation to business growth. This gap currently costs Sub-Saharan Africa U$95 billion every year.

  • Ecobank Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of the pan-African Ecobank Group, launched its flagship Women’s Programme, Ellevate, to empower and support women-led businesses.
  • Ecobank Commercial Bank will provide at least 10% of its loan portfolio to women-owned enterprises.
  • Since the program’s inception in 2020, Ecobank Group has extended US$208 million in loans and received US$337.7 million in deposits which created an average of 90,000 to 150,000 jobs across Africa.

Initiatives such as women-focused accelerators have been developed to prepare more women-led SMEs for funding to close the gender gap.

To this end, Ecobank Kenya Limited, a subsidiary of the pan-African Ecobank Group, launched its flagship Women’s Programme ‘Ellevate,’ to empower and support women-led businesses with funding and funding value-added solutions that will enable them to reach their full potential and success.

Ecobank Kenya launches Ellevate Programme to empower women-led businesses [Photo/Africa Busniess]
Cheikh Travaly, Managing Director of Ecobank Kenya, stated,

“The expansion of women-led and women-focused enterprises has long been slowed by various hurdles, including access to finance.

We created Ellevate specifically to meet the needs of female entrepreneurs by offering comprehensive, customised, and tailor-made solutions such as favourable lending rates, intelligent cash management enablement, and a suite of value-added services such as mentoring, leadership training, and networking opportunities. ”

Ecobank Commercial Bank will provide at least 10% of its loan portfolio to women-owned enterprises.

“Women-led enterprises are a largely untapped market, and Ecobank Kenya is determined to assist them in realising their full potential, seizing economic opportunities, and being both scalable and sustainable.

” This would allow them to play a significant role in Africa’s social and economic growth and provide thousands of jobs for current and future generations of Kenyans.” She added.

Cheikh spoke at the Nairobi Serena Hotel during the official launch of Ellevate by Ecobank in Kenya.

Ecobank Kenya launches Ellevate Programme to empower women-led businesses[Innovation Village]

Programme Achievements

Since the programme’s inception in 2020, Ecobank Group has extended US$208 million in loans and received US$337.7 million in deposits.

This financial assistance has created an average of 90,000 to 150,000 employment across Africa, primarily in education, agribusiness, hospitality, retail, and distribution.

The product has also received prestigious honours, including Best New Product Launch of the Year 2021 (the Middle East & Africa Retail Banking Innovation Awards), Impact Award 2021 (Financial Alliance for Women), and Outstanding Crisis Finance Innovation Award 2021. (Global Finance Innovators Awards).

Grindstone and Naspers have created an exclusive accelerator for women-owned SMEs in South Africa.

The Grindstone X Programme is a South African women-focused accelerator that will provide women-led SMEs with professional expertise, resourceful networks, finance, and markets to help them become more investible, scalable, and exit-ready.

It will be a three-year cohort-based curriculum, and Grindstone will accept ten of the most outstanding women-founded South African enterprises each year. The programme will assist 30 women in total.

To ensure a significant impact, Grindstone will prioritise employing African, Colored, and Indian entrepreneurs, as well as young people, people with impairments, and residents of less affluent areas.

Grindstone Partner Keet van Zyl stated of the accelerator,

“There is so much untapped female entrepreneurial ability in South Africa, and we need to get innovative in how to find this at scale.”

Value-added collaborations between innovative corporations like Naspers Labs and programmes with a proven track record of engineering start-up growth like Grindstone focus on personalised interventions for founders that favourably impact their business metrics.”

Business strategy reviews, go-to-market planning, funding readiness preparation, networking, business coaching from exceptional coaches, including some of the Grindstone Alumni companies that have successfully scaled their businesses, and funding support from Naspers Labs are among the tailored interventions of the programme.

Head of Naspers Labs, Mapule Ncanywa, expressed his excitement about the relationship, saying,

“We are thrilled to be able to welcome our country’s talented female-founded start-ups to apply for the GrindstoneX accelerator programme.

Naspers Labs is dedicated to aiding the establishment of micro-enterprises, focusing on young women. We hope that by leveraging the potential of female-founded firms, we can strengthen the tech industry and the economy.”

Read: Women-led businesses can spur African growth 

Maingi Gichuku is passionate about helping African businesses grow by offering technology solutions. With a BSC in Zoology and biochemistry, Gichuku yearns for an Africa that can find solutions to its challenges. My drive is to see an economically dynamic Africa and embrace its populations by creating opportunities cutting across the social and economic strata.

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