Standard Chartered Bank in partnership with @iBizAfrica-Strathmore University has today launched the fifth cohort of the Women in Tech incubator program. The program, which is an initiative of Standard Chartered in partnership with Strathmore University’s @iBizAfrica Incubation Centre, aims at championing for more diversity in technology and for more opportunities for women to develop entrepreneurial and leadership excellence.
The program’s theme for this year is‘’ Advancing global trends in women-owned businesses’’, indicating that a high level of consideration will be given towards women-owned businesses that incorporate global trends including emerging technologies, sustainability and digital economy accelerants. This is aligned to emerging global trends as well as local post-pandemic recovery efforts that have signaled that businesses will need to adopt these trends for sustainable growth.
Speaking during the launch, Kariuki Ngari Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Standard Chartered Bank said, “ SME’s contribute to 70% of jobs and are therefore a huge enabler of economic growth. Without SMEs, there would be a low level of innovation, economic productivity and global competitiveness. Therefore, as the country inches towards economic recovery, a strong SME ecosystem supported by access to capital and capacity building will be integral. Women led businesses account for a substantial number of SMEs and it’s therefore crucial that they are well positioned for growth.’’
Adding on the importance of incubation and financing for women led enterprises, he said,
‘’In the past few years, several African Tech start-ups have received large funding but only a low percentage of this has been channelled towards women led start-ups. To close this gap, there is need for knowledge building, as well as funding that is customized to remove barriers and eliminate the bias that women founders face. The Women in Tech program seeks to drive this change by allocating funding and incubation support that drives innovation, growth and sustainable business models. As evidenced with past participants of the program, incubation and funding does not only improve growth prospects for these enterprises, but also contributes to more representation in key emerging sectors such as fintech, Agritech and clean energy tech, which are emerging frontiers for economic growth.’’
The 5th cohort of the Women in Tech program will choose 10 applicants to participate in the 12 week incubation program. These companies will undergo training, coaching and mentorship offered by the @iBizAfrica- Strathmore University network of key industry experts, faculty, business leaders, experienced mentors, and professionals. Through the incubation, all the entrepreneurs will get expert training in the areas of idea conceptualization, strategy formulation and marketing which is key in moving the businesses from incubation to sustainable ventures.
Speaking during the event, Mr. Emmanuel Kweyu, Deputy Director @iLabAfrica Research and Innovation Centre, Strathmore University said, “ SMEs drive innovation and champion local entrepreneurial growth. However, they are often met with many roadblocks including the lack of infrastructure, knowledge and funding that would enable them to scale. This is even more prevalent among women led businesses who often face bias in their entrepreneurial journey. @iBizAfrica recognizes this and wants to bridge this gap by equipping women led businesses with the resources they need to sustain their growth and accelerate innovation. As the world embraces the digital economy, businesses that adopt digital technologies will be the ones that drive growth. By participating in this program, we are certain that this women led businesses will foster digitization, increase job creation and support sustainable economic growth.’’
Among the thematic areas that will be covered in the fifth cohort is post Covid-19 recovery, along with its intersection with the rise of internet media, AI & Big Data, gender diversity in businesses and green businesses. The 5th cohort provides a unique opportunity for women with unique innovations to grow their entrepreneurial success through capacity building, mentorship, coaching and access to financial support.
The Women in Tech program is part of the bank’s community engagement initiative, Futuremakers, that aims at tackling the issue of inequality and promoting greater economic inclusion for young people in various communities and economies, with a focus on girls and women.
Since its launch in 2017, the Women in Tech program has attracted over 1,150 applications supporting 4 Cohorts. Of the applicants, 41 businesses have gone through the program with 20 teams being awarded USD 10,000 each in seed money. Winning teams have ranged from ecommerce platforms to food supply and nutrition, beauty care, education, insurance, and more.
Registration for the fifth cohort is now open and will be done online.