Absa Bank Kenya today signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Trade Centre (ITC) to host the ITC SheTrades Kenya Hub for another two years. The SheTrades Hub is a dedicated project of ITC’s global initiative which aims is to drive increased trade, productivity and competitiveness for women entrepreneurs and women-owned companies to ensure that they play an active role in international trade. This hub is part of a network of 13 others spanning Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
The extended partnership aims to close the 6% gap between men and women’s access to formal financial institutions, as found in a Central Bank of Kenya survey. Women entrepreneurs in the country own nearly half of all small businesses, yet barriers to accessing finance persist.
Since the launch of ITC’s partnership with Absa Bank Kenya in 2016, more than 8,500 women have received financial literacy training and more than 10,400 women have obtained business financing support, valued at over $23 million. The partnership was instrumental in the launch of Absa’s See Her Empowered (SHE) Business Initiative in 2021, which aims to better support women entrepreneurs in accessing finance, training, and mentorship for business development and market information.
During the extended two-year partnership, and through the SheTrades Kenya Hub, Absa Bank will scale up its financial offerings to women entrepreneurs.
Abdi Mohamed, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director of Absa Bank Kenya said: ‘The SheTrades programme aligns well with our overall commitment to positively impact and grow women-owned businesses in the country by creating opportunities for them to participate in the global economy by building their capacities and delivering trainings on financial literacy and entrepreneurship.’
As part of this initiative, the Bank has a wider commitment to empower over one million women entrepreneurs across the country by 2025 with financial and non-financial support to scale up and take their businesses to the next level.
He added: ‘Our commitment to the women and trade agenda extends beyond the products and services we provide. We believe that it is our responsibility to use our voice and influence to drive meaningful change and contribute to a more just and equal society. We are thus investing in financial solutions that are designed specifically to meet the needs of women, holistically.’
ITC Executive Director Pamela Coke-Hamilton said: ‘Absa Bank Kenya is not only ITC’s first SheTrades Hub, but it is also the first financial institution to host one of our Hubs. With access to finance being one of the most pressing obstacles faced by women entrepreneurs in Kenya and globally, we hope that more financial institutions will follow Absa Bank Kenya’s footsteps in unlocking business financing for women.’
Earlier this month, the ITC Executive Director met with the Absa Bank Kenya CEO and with Floice Mukabana, Acting CEO of the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency, to discuss how both parties can deepen their partnership to improve women entrepreneurs’ market and financial access in Kenya.
In June, at the World Economic Development Forum 2023 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, ITC will launch its 14th ITC SheTrades Hub, which will be hosted by the Mongolian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.