Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world, with approximately 42 per cent of the non-agricultural labour force classified as self-employed or employers.
According to a report, “Profiting from Parity: Unlocking the Potential of Women’s Businesses in Africa”, produced by the World Bank Group’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab and the Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice
Yet most entrepreneurs are unable to grow their businesses beyond small-scale subsistence operations, impeding their contribution to poverty reduction and shared prosperity.
This is particularly so for women where a study by McKinsey, shows that the female economy is the world’s largest emerging market, with the potential to add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025.
Furthermore, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Sub-Saharan Africa again has the highest rate of female entrepreneurship globally, with approximately 26% of female adults engaged in entrepreneurial activity.
One of the greatest challenges women entrepreneurs face today is lack of funds. This has seen more women opt out of entrepreneurship. However, there is a ray of hope as institutions and individuals come together to offer funds for women-led businesses.
Whether you are looking for an angel investor or Venture Capital firm focused on women, here is a list of funding firms that should be on every African female entrepreneur’s radar.
An angel investor (also known as a private investor, seed investor or angel funder) is a high net worth individual who provides financial backing for small startups or entrepreneurs, typically in exchange for ownership equity in the company.
Africa Trust Group: Africa Trust Group is a holistic early-stage gender-lens investor firm committed to investing in Africa’s Women entrepreneurs. With a key focus on industries in Social-impact technology, Manufacturing and raw material processing, Infrastructure development (affordable housing and sanitation), Agriculture and agricultural value chains and Media and communications. Headquartered in South Africa, the firm’s Investment size is between $10 000 – $50 000
Dazzle Angel: Dazzle Angels is the first female-focused angels’ fund in South Africa. The goal of the fund is to solve radical gender inequality in early-stage investment management and deployment. The firm is co-founded by women with a particular interest in industries of Education, Healthcare, Fintech, SAAS, Agritech, Tourism and IoT. Dazzle Angels are based in South Africa and its typical investment size is between $25 000 and $50 000.
Rising Tide Africa: Based in Nigeria, Rising Tide Africa functions as part of a global movement of The Rising Tide Program for Africa. It constitutes a group of women angel investors harnessing their power, network, passion and capital to positively impact and actively create a New Africa.
Rising Tide Africa (RTA) is a unique, trans-border women-oriented investment program and funded by private investors who believe in bringing about positive change by investing in the continent’s exciting start-ups and next generation to create a New Africa. The firm invests between $50 000 and $500 000.
According to Investopedia, Venture capital is a form of private equity and a type of financing that investors provide to startup companies and small businesses that are believed to have long-term growth potential. Venture capital generally comes from well-off investors, investment banks and any other financial institutions. However, it does not always take a monetary form; it can also be provided in the form of technical or managerial expertise. Venture capital is typically allocated to small companies with exceptional growth potential, or to companies that have grown quickly and appear poised to continue to expand. Here are some of the Venture Capitalist firms that we know that focus more on women led busiinesses:
Enygma Ventures: Enygma Ventures is a unique purpose-driven investment fund led by award-winning entrepreneurs with 40 years of combined experience growing and scaling businesses. Based in South Africa, it invests between $500 000 and $1-million.
Khula Lula: A venture capital innovator, creating access to micro-financing and scale for African women tech startups. Based in South Africa, Khula Lula provides investment of between $10 000 and $25 000.
Graça Machel Trust Investment Fund: An investment fund, a pan-African investment vehicle to accelerate women’s economic empowerment. The Graça Machel Trust (GMT) has been championing women’s economic empowerment across the continent since 2010. With its strong networks and influence, it is well placed to convert initiatives into action and advance investment in women-owned and -led businesses. GMT aims at supporting a growing pipeline of women-owned SMEs. The fund is headquartered in Kenya and provides an investment of between $50 000 and $1-million.
Janngo Capital: Though not fully focused on women, Janngo Capital Startup Fund is a first of its kind Venture Capital and Impact vehicle investing from seed through growth stage across Africa and targeting at least 50% of startups founded, co-founded or benefiting women.
This initiative is part of Janngo’s broader commitment on financing the SDGs in Africa, as a member of the Goalkeepers Community and the Global Future Council on the New Economic Agenda of the World Economic Forum.
Startup accelerators and incubators are organizations that seek to help startups attain success. Startup accelerators tend to focus on providing startups with mentorship, advice, and resources to help the startups succeed, including a Demo Day, a day to focus the attention of the startup investor community on the startups through hosting a series of investments pitches from the startups to startup investors.
Accelerators tend to not offer dedicated office space to startups (and may encourage startups to find their own dedicated space), but may have a physical location for shared resources and accelerator events such as invited guest speaker talks and advising office hours. Incubators tend to offer dedicated office and development space to the startups for a set period of time. Here are some Accelerator Programmes that focus on women-led start-ups
I’M IN: Based in Johannesburg, the I’M IN Accelerator facilitates funding and opportunities for black owned, high growth tech startups, and equips them to compete in the #SouthAfrican #tech sector. The accelerator also has a dedicated women only cohort. The accelerator typically invests between $50 000 and $100 000.
SheLeads Africa: The She Leads Africa (SLA) Accelerator is a four-month programme designed to identify, support and fund the next generation of brightest female entrepreneurs. The accelerator invests up to $5000 in startups.
SheTrades Initiative: Under the umbrella of the SheTrades Initiative, the Swiss based SheTrades Invest is dedicated to supporting fruitful relationships between investors and women entrepreneurs in developing markets.
TechbyHer: Tech By Her Accelerator is supporting female-led tech ventures in becoming globally competitive and sustainable brands. It is powered by MEST Africa with support from the Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative, ‘Make-IT in Africa’, (implemented by Deutsche für Gesellschaft Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The purpose of the Tech By Her Accelerator program is to develop a strong Pan African female entrepreneurship community. We’re achieving this by mentoring female founders and building an alumni network of successful Tech By Her Accelerator participants who become ambassadors for other upcoming founders.
GreenHouse Lab: GreenHouse Lab is a three-month accelerator focused solely on early-stage, female-led or female focused technology startups across Africa, as well as African run start-ups domiciled overseas with products that are scalable in African markets. The Nigerian based accelerator invests between $50 000 and $100 000 in startups that participate in the accelerator.
Standard Chartered Women in Technology Incubator: Standard Chartered Bank and @iBizAfrica, Strathmore Business School in Kenya have partnered to create the Standard Chartered Women in Tech Incubator. This supports female-led entrepreneurial teams, Providing them with training, mentorship and seed funding. The incubator provides grant funding of between $5000 and $10 000.
Grants are a sum of money given to a business in order to help them further their business. They’re usually distributed by governments, corporations, foundations, or trusts. Unlike many other types of business funding, grants don’t have to be paid back and business owners aren’t required to give up equity in exchange for a grant.
African Women’s Development Fund: The African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), which is headquartered in Ghana, is a grant-making foundation that supports local, national and regional women’s organisations working towards the empowerment of African women and the promotion and realisation of their rights. The AWDF provides grants of up to $50 000.
Urgent Action Fund-Africa: Urgent Action Fund-Africa provides rapid response grants and technical support to women’s rights organisations, women’s human rights defenders and activists who identify strategic and time-sensitive opportunities to advance women’s rights in Africa. Based in Kenya, the organisation provides grants of up to $100 000.
Invest2Impact: The Invest2Impact Competition seeks to support 100 women-led businesses in East Africa with funding, mentoring and networking opportunities. The competition awards US$20 thousand to a business that is working to address climate change and promote a green economy, among three other categories. The Rwandan-based organisation provides grants of between $10 000 and $25 000.
The African Women Leadership Fund (AWLF): Established by the Economic Commission for Africa under the leadership of the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and the Chairperson of the African Union, the AWLF is an innovative impact investment fund which aims to accelerate the growth of women-owned and operated funds and companies across Africa. It provides grant funding.
Wheat Trust: The Women’s Hope Education and Training Trust (Wheat) was founded in South Africa in 1998 to support women-led organisations, through promoting a culture of giving. Grants are given by Wheat to uniquely skilled women who would otherwise not have access, enabling the creation of their own economic and social justice strategies, and to become sustainable income earners. The organisation provides grants of up to $100 000.
Women Fund Tanzania: Women Fund Tanzania is a registered trust and the first women’s rights fund in the country both as a movement builder, and as an activist and feminist organisation. The organisation provides grants of up to $50 000.
USADF: The US African Development Foundation (USADF) invests directly in community enterprises, providing seed capital and local technical support to early-stage agriculture, off-grid energy, and youth-led enterprises in Africa. It provides grants of up to $250 000.
Miss.Africa Seed Fund: This Kenyan programme backs successful activities that are currently supporting women and girls in STEM, and through this effort, identify how to support scalability and impact. It provides grants of up to $5000.
Awief: The African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (Awief) is a pan-African woman economic empowerment organisation which nurtures and actively promotes women innovation and entrepreneurship through its development programmes, accelerators, and networking events, including the annual Awief conference, exhibition and awards. The organisation, which is based in Nigeria and South Africa, gives out grants of up to $5000.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative: The Cartier Women’s Initiative is an international business programme created in 2006 by Cartier in partnership with Insead Business School to identify, support and encourages businesses led by women entrepreneurs. The organisation is based in France and provides grants of between $25 000 and $100 000.
In case we missed out on a few more groups names, here is a list with more firms that we thought could be quite important.