Keeping Your Business in Mind

ABSA InspireMe Conference 2024 for African Women Entrepreneurs Begins in Nairobi

By Shadrack Nyakoe

The Absa InspireMe Conference 2024, the largest gathering of women entrepreneurs on the continent, kicks off today.

This year’s hybrid conference brings together women entrepreneurs from ABSA participating countries which include Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, Mauritius and Uganda as well as participating countries under SheTrades Hubs in Africa, that is, Mauritius, Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, The Gambia, and Nigeria.

Speaking during the opening ceremony of the conference held at Movenpick, the Chief Guest and President’s Advisor on Women’s Rights, Harriette Chiggai, said, “This two-day Absa InspireMe Conference is a space for each and everyone of us to connect, share experiences, and develop the tools and knowledge to take our businesses to even greater heights. But it is also a call to action, as a community, to dismantle the barriers that still stand in the way of women’s entrepreneurial success.”

“MSMEs in Africa are best equipped to resolve some of the continent’s most pressing challenges. The World Economic Forum estimates that the global workforce will increase by a staggering 910 million people between 2010 and 2050, of which 830 million will be in Africa.

Emphasis should be on women-led SMEs by supporting them to overcome the constraints of accessing finance, as well as market information and networks. I am happy to note that the Absa InspireMe Conference is very much aligned with this objective,” she added.

Women-led businesses have been on the rise across Africa, with the World Bank estimating that 58 per cent of all African SMEs are women-owned businesses contributing to approximately 30 per cent of the continent’s total GDP compared to 70 per cent from the male counterparts.

Women continue to lag due to the barrier of access to finance, one of the biggest challenges on the continent that contributes to stagnation and even the collapse of women-owned businesses.

“The two-day forum is aimed at facilitating stakeholder engagement and discussions to address business challenges that exist for women-owned businesses as well as to identify opportunities for the businesses.

A McKinsey Report states that if women were to fully participate in the economy, USD 12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025, necessitating the need to advance women’s economic empowerment,” said Absa Bank CEO & MD Abdi Mohamed.

Concurrent with the Absa InspireMe Conference and as part of the Kenya – UK Trade Mission, select women-led businesses from the agrifood, textiles and apparel, handicrafts, and accessories sectors will participate in a series of one-to-one business meetings with potential buyers from the UK delegation and African corporations.

Representatives from participating International Trade Centre SheTrades Hubs will also discuss potential collaboration with the three participating UK delegates from the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chamber International, and West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as export opportunities available through the UK Developing Countries Trading Scheme.

“Absa has made the choice to support businesses that operate at the grassroot level. This is where we generate a lot of impact, but at the same time, it comes with a significant amount of risk because the vast majority of these SMEs do not have collaterals.

Through this guarantee, the Africa Guarantee Fund will cover 75 per cent of Absa’s risk exposure to increase lending to the SMEs,” said African Guarantee Fund CEO Jules Ngakam.

Official partners for the conference include Finance in Motion, Africa Guarantee Fund, and APA Insurance. Over the last three years, this conference has united over 8,000 women across Africa, offering them the chance to learn from mission-driven women business leaders in Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, and Kenya.

The Absa InspireMe Conference is an initiative under Absa Bank’s women in business proposition, launched in 2021. The annual conference, aimed at facilitating market linkages, B2B networking, and business mentorship for women entrepreneurs, will take place on 18-19 June 2024 under the theme “Empowering Your Story for Growth.”

This theme aligns with Absa’s new brand promise, launched earlier this year, “Your Story Matters,” which dedicates the bank’s purpose to a more deliberately customer-centric focus.

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