White paper on challenges of female entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa
We recently launched a white paper analyzing over 500 Women Empowerment Award applications from sub-Saharan Africa to understand their challenges. The insights shed light on how to effectively design and build supporting mechanisms to help female entrepreneurs tackle their specific challenges and empower them as business leaders to scale up innovation.
“The answers and insights provided by the female entrepreneurs from 35 countries in the application form were extremely vivid and enlightening – their voices need to be heard by a broader audience. Also, by analyzing the applications, we hope to extract insights as objectively as possible to help build effective support mechanisms.”
Dr. Monika Lessl, Executive Director of Bayer Foundation
The annual Women Empowerment Award is one of the support mechanisms Bayer Foundation has developed to empower women. Through this Award, Bayer Foundation recognizes that many of the latest innovations in health and nutrition, contributing to better food production and quality of life in sub-Saharan Africa, are driven by female entrepreneurs.
“This Award is highly needed as female entrepreneurs account for 58% of Africa's employed population - with their innovations in health and nutrition, they are driving change and shaping the continent's future. But, in line with what our applicants have indicated, there is still a significant funding gap between female entrepreneurs and their male counterparts globally,” Dr. Monika Lessl, Executive Director of Bayer Foundation states.
While the funding gap for female entrepreneurs remains extremely high, the study found that the funding gap gets exacerbated when combined with other issues that affect female entrepreneurs more than male entrepreneurs, such as challenges in building networks, finding mentors, and difficulties with being taken seriously.
The white paper further helped uncover that finding guidance or support through networking and mentoring is a critical need faced by female entrepreneurs. The lack of women in many sectors makes finding contacts and mentors with relevant experience difficult for female entrepreneurs.
All in all, these insights shed light on how to effectively design and build supporting mechanisms for female entrepreneurs to help tackle their distinctive challenges and empower them as business leaders. “This learning is crucial for us as a foundation because our award winners not only receive a cash prize, but they also receive tailored support and training for scaling, including active investor feedback. We are constantly trying to improve our support mechanisms, making sure that we can tailor our support as much as possible,” Dr. Lessl adds.
Bayer Foundation launched the Women Empowerment Award in 2021. Whispa Health, a Nigerian startup focused on sexual and reproductive health, is one of the five awardees from that year. “The award is unique in the sense that it offers not just funding. It also offers great mentorship, training, and networks,” Morenike Fajemisin, CEO and founder explains, adding: “I believe strongly in the power of partnerships, because it helps our company to remain asset-lean and to scale quickly.”