NAIROBI, May 14 – The government has been urged to disburse the Women Enterprise Fund according to the absorption capacity of self-help groups.
Export Promotion Council (EPC) boss Matanda Wabuyele argued that the current formula of giving out Sh50,000 per group coupled with a lack of awareness about the Fund were to blame for the low uptake.
The Chief Executive’s remarks came a few days after it emerged that Sh700 million out of the Sh2 billion fund set aside for women entrepreneurs remain uncollected at the Gender Ministry, a year after it was launched.
He however warned that caution should be applied when dealing with new entrants, whom he said had to be given time to develop themselves into operations that could utilise the money meaningfully.
“There should be criteria which can differentiate between those who have products in the production line vis-à-vis those who are doing prototype,” Wabuyele added.
He also proposed the launch of an intensive awareness campaign that would sensitise women on the need to borrow money for development as well as a program that would demystify some cultural beliefs that discourage them from taking up loans.
Wabuyele noted that the penetration of women entrepreneurs in the formal sector was still very low, thus the need to develop and grow a strong and enduring enterprise culture that would see many informal businesses graduate into the mainstream Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector.
Majority of women and youth operate informal businesses, which face challenges of accessing capital, business skills, technology and markets.
Citing the soon to be enacted Micro Finance Act, Wabuyele commended the government for putting in place structures that encourage the growth of the sector.
The Act is expected to enable the orderly growth of a vibrant and sound sector that provides financial services to the people without access to formal banking.
However, the CEO emphasised the need to provide adequate capital and skills development, all of which would stimulate the sector’s growth.
He spoke during a training workshop on export business and marketing management for women entrepreneurs in the handicraft sector.
The council has for the last two years assisted more than 1,000 SMEs access the European Union markets through taking them to trade fairs where they can showcase their products.
He remarked that the next step for the council after the exposure to the EU market would be to take the entrepreneurs to the US so that they could take advantage of the provisions of article 9 under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) programme.