Although women operate more than 40 percent of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, they rarely have access to the tools they need for their businesses to succeed. A financing gap of $42 billion exists between male and female entrepreneurs on the continent. Women face challenges gaining access to the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully manage their businesses to become investment-ready, and when they do, they struggle to access institutional and venture capital funding to accelerate their businesses.
To promote fair access to venture development services and venture capital funding for women-led and owned businesses, the USAID-funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) awarded a $1.2 million co-investment grant to ShEquity Partners, an investment firm providing smart investments for female-led and owned businesses in sub-Saharan Africa. The grant set a priority of supporting businesses impacted by COVID-19. The funding enables ShEquity to provide venture-building and mentoring services to 120 businesses facing constraints to growth in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. In addition, through the co-investment partnership, ShEquity will select 12 high-growth startups to receive pre-seed investments of at least $50,000 each. The catalytic nature of the Trade Hub co-investment grant makes ShEquity more attractive to private investors and is enabling ShEquity to raise $15 million from impact-oriented private investors.
“The grant received from USAID/Trade Hub has allowed us to impact 60 female business founders in West Africa, the participants in the two cohorts implemented this year. This partnership has allowed us to design a Francophone-focused program which, we believe will have a great impact on female-led and owned businesses in the Francophone countries, especially those in the Sahel region.”Vuyolwethu Dubese, SHEBA Director.
In 2022, ShEquity provided crucial support for Wazima Health, an integrated telehealth platform for healthcare providers. ShEquity is in the final phase of negotiations with another investee.
Backed by their Trade Hub partnership, ShEquity was able to continue and expand its training program, the ShEquity Business Accelerator (SHEBA). Thanks to the new funding, ShEquity supported a second cohort of 30 female-led businesses in SHEBA from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo who received venture-building and technical support. ShEquity also provided the SHEBA program in French for the first time, benefiting 30 participants from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.