Stakeholders challenge women in business to be innovative to counter Covid-19 disruption
Studies carried out since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Kenya indicate that women are worst hit economically than men.
It is against this backdrop that Zuhura Africa organised a webinar to offer tips to women entrepreneurs on how they can survive the pandemic that has crippled businesses across the country.
Zuhura Africa supports the youth and women to innovate and develop sustainable enterprises in the continent.
Africa Development Bank's acting director general Ms Nnena Nabwofu said research shows that one in every four women in Kenya engage in early entrepreneurship.
Ms Nabwofu, who is in charge of the East African office, added that women run 60.7 per cent of unlicensed (mainly micro) and 31.4 per cent of licensed Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country.
She said the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a lot of uncertainty to the business world with women investors the hardest hit.
Flower exports in the country, Ms Nabwofu said, which has been standing at 38 per cent to the European Union market, has drastically reduced.
"This has affected women mostly as entrepreneurs and workers since 75 per cent of workers in the horticulture industry are women," she said.
Ms Nabwofu added that restriction of movement imposed by the government as a containment measure on the virus have resulted into many women entrepreneurs incurring huge losses.
She said there is the need for women to do business differently by embracing technology to leverage on their market that has dwindled significantly.
"Women in small and medium-sized enterprises need to embrace technology, look for new markets, and communicate with stakeholders and potential clients," she said.
She challenged women in business for form groups that will be instrumental to enable discussion and influence entrepreneurship policies favouring women with the relevant government agencies.
The ADB official said if women do not sit on the negotiating table with the proper bargaining power, they are doomed not to achieve much.
FALL BACK PLAN
Valentine Njoroge, the founder& CEO of Dadasphere Media Limited called on women entrepreneurs not to take Covid-19 pandemic in a negative way but view it as a normal disruption to business.
Ms Njoroge called on women in business to carry out their businesses differently and still generate the much needed revenue.
"Women entrepreneurs should stop looking at coronavirus pandemic as 'my problem' and go back to the drawing board and look at where the revenue will come from. This is a normal business disruption just as Uber came to disrupt the conventional taxi business," she said.
The founder of Verushka Wigs Veronica Nyabuto noted women need to plan for the worst and best case scenarios for their businesses.
She said it is always advisable for women to have a fall back plan for their businesses more so during times to crisis.
Nyabuto said the pandemic hit her hard after the walk-in clients to her hair wig business reduced by 60 per cent in the first week after the disease was confirmed in the country.
To stay afloat, she had to think fast and settled on social media to market her products.
"As much as business are adopting to the 'new normal', digitization, training, teamwork and adaptation is key to surmounting challenges posed to entrepreneurship by the pandemic," said Nyabuto.
She advised women entrepreneurs to innovate ways to run their business and protect employees since they are the foundation of any venture.
Felicia Muriuki, the managing director of Sharecare Limited, said it is paramount for women in business to upscale their skills through online training tools.
"E-commerce is the way to go since using technology will increase business visibility, exposing it to many potential clients," Ms Muriuki said.
She noted that it is important for women to have mentors comprising of people who have been in the same line of business longer and who may be instrumental in offering wise counsel.
A survey released last week by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed more women than men have been rendered jobless since the pandemic was confirmed in the county in March.
The survey report on Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Households released by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukuru Yatani further revealed that more women than men work in jobs that are vulnerable to disruption, especially in the service and manufacturing industries.
Early this month, Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Prof Margaret said 60 per cent of women working in the informal sector had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
"The crisis have affected women with many of those working in the informal sector losing their jobs," she said.
The CS said the government is looking for ways to help women in business who have been affected by the pandemic are back on their feet.
"Through the Women Enterprise Fund, we seek to give women who have taken loans and who will take up loans a grace period of up to three months to start repayment," said the CS.
Prof Kobia, however, also challenged young women to be innovative and proactive during this period in order to keep themselves busy and earn a living.
She proposed to the young women to consider working with civil-societies and other organizations to do advocacy work on the Covi-19 pandemic among others.
"The pandemic has brought about many new opportunities which include online and digital jobs that women do from home. Women and particularly young girls should take advantage of these opportunities and earn a living for themselves," she said.