The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) through its institution, COMFWB with support from the NEPAD Spanish Fund for African Women Empowerment (NEPAD Spanish Fund) which is financed by the Kingdom of Spain is implementing the Business Incubator for African Women Entrepreneurs (BIAWE). BIAWE aims to establish and upgrade a network of business incubators in the COMESA region that will contribute to the increased survival and growth of women enterprises. Specifically the project aims to:
- To increase the number of women entrepreneurs accessing business support services from business incubators
- To increase the women entrepreneurs that access affordable credit to improve and grow their businesses
- To strengthen partnerships between public and private sector and establish a women mentorship initiative
BIAWEis a pilot project is aimed at addressing some of the major challenges faced bywomen involved in small and medium scale enterprises. The Business Incubatorfor African Women Entrepreneurs are working environment designed to foster thegrowth of new and emerging small businesses, nurturing young firms, helpingthem to survive and grow during the start-up period when they are mostvulnerable. The business incubators will be designed to;
- Provide business support services to women involved in agro processing, ICT and handcrafts (including textiles) where the project provided the required equipment for these sectors activities.
- Address the major challenges facing these women entrepreneurs such as inadequate value added and processing skills, business management skills, support to access to financial services, conformity to quality norms and standards
- Mentoring and Coaching of the incubates through an effective linkage and partnership with the National COMFWB Chapters
The project focuses on value added agro-processing, handcrafts and ICT as demand driven and also guided by regional experience and its activities involve training; follow up assessment and support provision, and credit guarantee to assist women to access credit to finance their enterprises, which will focus on providing business incubation services. The entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to select viable business options based on personal interest, regional, national priorities and engage in mentorship of other women entrepreneurs.
COMESA Members States’ Institutions that participating the project implementation are:
- Burundi Business Incubator (BBIN): 30 residential incubatees in textiles
- Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI): 35 (30 residential and 5 non-residential/virtual incubatees in agro-processing)
- Sudanese Women General Union (SWGU): 36 (30 residential incubatees in agro-processing and 6 residential/virtual in ICT), The project will target the Sudan 18 states where two participants will be selected to be and trained and with the cooperation with states authority the participant will established the state branch of the business incubator.
- Small Enterprise Development Company (SEDCO): 50 (5 residential and 45 non-residential/virtual incubatees in agro-processing – poultry processing)
BIAWE targeted 145 African Women Entrepreneurs. The new enterprises formed by these 145 women entrepreneurs are expected to generate 580 jobs, assuming 1 enterprise will employ 4 people. Each of the entrepreneurs that will undergo the business incubation program will be expected to mentor 10 entrepreneurs in their countries of residence. Therefore an estimated 1,450 entrepreneurs will benefit indirectly through multiplier effect of the project.
- At least 80% of entrepreneurs successfully complete business incubation training in agro-processing, handcrafts, and ICT.
- At least 60% of the entrepreneurs will access finance through the credit guarantee scheme and/or any other financial institution in the respective member states.
- At least 50% of the incubated women entrepreneurs linked to the public and/or the private sector for enhanced market outlets and ease of access to raw materials and ingredients.