Three start-ups from Africa have been selected to take part in the prestigious F-LANE accelerator programme, organised by the Vodafone Institute in Germany.
F-LANE is a five-week virtual acceleration programme for early stage entrepreneurs with ambitious outcomes to advance women and girls leadership, equity, diversity and inclusion.
The women are exposed to different experts in entrepreneurship, training and mentorship at their start-ups, to help them get to another level in uplifting their economic status through creating opportunities for them.
Zoora, Bidhaa Sasa and Hive Online were selected from more than 450 applicants based all over the world. They were chosen for their use of cutting-edge technology to tackle issues that impact women’s lives in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, building a financial trust history, they give these women the tools for financial inclusion.
These three companies graduate today alongside start-ups from all over the world, from Chile to the United Kingdom and Pakistan.
“Their success is a testament to the ongoing fintech innovation that is changing women’s lives across the African continent,” said F-Lane official Eugenia Leproni in a virtual communication from Berlin, Germany.
Zoora, which was founded last year by Ms Sarah Atuhaire Baryaija and empowers women in rural Uganda, who only own seven per cent of the land despite comprising 75 per cent of the agricultural labour force, by improving their access to agricultural inputs and their digital education.
“Zoora is a digital platform for accessing digital education in finance, enterprise development, smart agriculture, climate change, gender dynamics and proper record keeping, developed for members of VSLAs (Village Savings and Loan Association),” said Ms Eugenia.
The platform works as a Digital Data Management System at Zoora Centre for Empowerment and enables rural women farmers in groups capture savings, farm records and get access to agricultural inputs for farming.
It also educates rural women and unemployed youth on how to use mobile phones, and provides them with skills and helps them store their data.
This helps to improve women’s productivity and their savings, which creates economic sustainability of communities.
The centre also designs and delivers digital educational content in financial literacy, enterprise skills development, gender, better agricultural practices and climate change effects leading to concrete behavioural change.
“Every day communities are changing. It’s a new era. We are all going digital. At Zoora Centre for Empowerment, we digitise education for the rural person and we support women in communities with different products depending on the community needs. Women empowerment leads to bigger economic benefits to communities.”
Bidhaa Sasa is a last-mile distribution service in Western Kenya, and operates in nine counties of Bungoma, Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Kakamega, Vihiga, Siaya, Bomet, Homabay and Kericho; financing essential goods to under-served rural communities in order to improve their quality of life.
Bidhaa Sasa, which is a micro-lender banking on rural women was founded in Bungoma by David Disch and Rocío Pérez in 2015, and has disbursed more than Sh300 million loans to women groups.
The lender with more than 50,000 clients sells a range of household goods that improve the quality of life of rural families in Western Kenya including solar lamps, efficient stoves and water tanks, through the chamas on credit without preconditions or collateral.
“Local banks and microfinance institutions hardly consider rural women as viable customers due to their extremely low-income status, lack of financial history and lack of collaterals,” Ms Perez says in a past virtual interview.
Their main goal is to fix the poor quality of life in rural areas, which often impacts the women of the household in particular.
“Bidhaa Sasa wants to make them aware of how their quality could improve, then provide them access to the needed products and most importantly also make those affordable,” she says.
Hive Online founded in 2017 by Sofie Blakstad and Matthew Mims uses block chain technology to enhance the financial profile of rural women in Rwanda by building a financial trust history, they give these women the tools for financial inclusion.
Hive Online is a distributed community finance platform that enables financially excluded entrepreneurs in rural Africa to gain access to credit and new markets.
Built with block chain technology, their solution provides a financial trust history based on facts and business actions.
This reputation-based platform builds confidence for businesses, NGOs, merchants and financial institutions to support small business ecosystems and offer them an alternative to the exorbitant prices of local lenders. They are addressing sustainable development goals, such as working towards gender equality,” said Leproni.
Other partners collaborating with the three start-ups to ensure their success include Cooking Alliance, Kiva, Whole Planet Foundation, SNV, Better Harvest and Shona.