Women entrepreneurs in Kenyan industry struggle to access credit – study

NAIROBI, Sept 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Raising start-up capital is one of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs in Kenya’s key manufacturing sector, with banks requiring collateral that most of them do not have, a study said on Tuesday.

Manufacturing contributes about 10% of Kenya’s gross domestic product but women account for only 17% of the sector’s workforce, according to the study by the International Centre for Research on Women and Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

Most women work or run businesses in the informal economy, and face numerous difficulties including pay and promotion disparities as well as obstacles in accessing information, technology and finance to expand their enterprises.

“While government initiatives encourage enterprise development, most respondents reported difficulties in accessing those funds. Instances of sexual exploitation in exchange for credit facilities and compliance clearances were mentioned,” the report said.

As a result, most women-owned manufacturing businesses are still micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the informal sector – unable to grow and enter the formal economy.

Naomi Ndele, head of SME and agribusiness at Kenya’s KCB Bank, told a webinar launching the report that banking policies needed to be reviewed to incorporate women.

“The banking model was designed by men to support men and so a lot of lending policies and methodologies are very restrictive and do not favour women,” she said.

“There are few known financial institutions that have remodelled their business to incorporate the needs of women.”

She added that while there were some financial products on the market that were geared towards women, they did not include the sizable credit often required for manufacturing businesses. (Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla; Editing by Helen Popper; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org)

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