Five women-led tech businesses have each received Kshs. 1million in seed funding from Standard Chartered Bank Kenya. This follows a successful completion of the third cohort of a tech incubation programme launched in 2017 by the bank in partnership with iLab Africa – a division of Strathmore University.
This year’s top five companies are Bena Care which provides home nursing services to people with life-limiting illnesses across the country , Arbres Biotech – a company which focuses on technology transfer and capacity building in the agricultural sector, Nature’s Touch which manufactures nature-based skin care products, Soul Food enterprises which exclusively serves Swahili cuisines and Taste Afrique which manufactures, distributes and sells natural food seasoning products and mixed spices.
The five winners were selected from a group of one hundred and eighty companies which competed for the top prize. While congratulating them, Standard Chartered Bank Kenya chief executive officer Kariuki Ngari noted that the Women in Tech programme aspires to support and nurture entrepreneurship, technology and business growth for women. “Often, people ask why the focus on women and girls; the reality is that in Kenya and globally, women and girls fall behind in many aspects of development and equality,” said Mr. Ngari. He further said that women in Kenya who constitute about fifty percent of our population provide eighty percent of farm labour and manage forty percent of the country’s smallholder farms. Ironically, they own only one percent of agricultural land and receive just ten percent of the available credit hence the need to support them.
Each year, the Women in Tech programme through @iBizAfrica Centre trains more than ten small and medium businesses leveraging technology by offering mentorship, advisory, coaching, networking opportunities, access to seed capital and investor forums that help mould their businesses to international standards. Thirty start-ups have participated to date and fifteen of them have been awarded Kshs one million each in seed funding. Dr. Joseph Sevilla, director of @iBizAfrica Centre-Strathmore University said the programme had shown tremendous increase of women businesses with great potential to drive the Kenyan economy to greater heights over the years. “We believe in building on the skills of small and medium enterprises that foster innovation and drive change, and we’re proud to be part of the positive impact they are making in the business community,” Dr. Sevilla said.
For the first time since the inception of this programme, the winners were selected and awarded virtually due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic. “The unprecedented times we are experiencing now, demonstrate more than ever that technology is and will continue to be a major contributor to the success of businesses,” Mr. Ngari noted. The programme is part of the bank’s community engagement strategy dubbed Futuremakers that aims to address inequality and to promote greater economic inclusion for young people in various communities and economies, with a focus on girls and women.