WomenWork and Mastercard Launch Rebuild Program to provide Emergency Loans for Kenyan Women-owned Businesses
Two female entrepreneurs, Isis Nyong’o and Asha Mweru came together in 2017 and started WomenWork out of the stark realization that talented women in Africa are deliberately slowing down, starting micro-businesses or opting out entirely from the formal economy due to structural biases and unique challenges hindering their growth prospects

WomenWork in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation has launched Rebuild, a program that offers emergency loans and business expertise to women entrepreneurs in Kenya. WomenWork, founded in Kenya, describes itself as a ‘technology-driven company that focuses on the advancement of African women entrepreneurs through digital peer-to-peer communities, knowledge enhancement, and access to capital to improve their chances of success‘.

The Rebuild Program includes an emergency interest-free short-term working capital loan for businesses, expert-driven business training and support from an engaging peer community of other women entrepreneurs – all delivered online.

This is the first time that WomenWork is running such an initiative in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation in Kenya. The emergency loan facility is aimed at providing a soft landing against COVID-19 which has disproportionately affected women-owned businesses.

WomenWork says the commitment of Kenya Shillings 1.5 billion from the Mastercard Foundation to help to cushion the economy in Kenya will be channelled through four lead partner organisations in support of a series of interventions that will facilitate business continuity for over 25,000 Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises with less than ten employees and a turn-over below KES. 500,000.  The loans are primarily targeted at businesses owned and run by the youth, particularly young women such as those in the company’s network.

The short-term emergency loans are for job protection and working capital payable in two months with no interest, collateral or fees to enable the businesses to survive through the pandemic and beyond. The eligibility for the loans includes an outline of the proposed use of funds and the ability to repay. Individual businesses will access loans starting from a minimum of KES. 31,200. Borrowers can apply for additional emergency loans after repayment of the first one. 

“The Rebuild Program is an exciting and significant milestone in the history of our organization. It provides us with the opportunity to offer the much-needed support to our community of women entrepreneurs who are facing significant challenges arising from the effects of COVID-19 and have either closed or are at the point of almost closing. We hope that our emergency funding will enable women to survive these devastating effects of COVID-19 on their businesses, and hopefully, protect against imminent job losses and stabilize their businesses through this period,” said Asha Mweru, Co-founder WomenWork.

“Even in ordinary times, women-owned businesses face difficulties accessing lines of credit. These challenges have been exacerbated by COVID-19; a pandemic which generally and fundamentally threatens progress on gender equality. We all need to take extraordinary measures in response, becoming even more intentional about supporting women-led enterprises and safeguarding the jobs they create. That is the driving impetus for this collaboration with WomenWork, who we are glad to welcome as a new partner,” said Daniel Hailu, Regional Head Eastern and Southern Africa, Mastercard Foundation

The loan facility is open to businesses across all sectors that are operational in Kenya for at least six months and have 51% or more women shareholding, 50 employees or less, and generate revenues of up to five million Kenya Shillings per annum.

Successful applicants of the Rebuild Program by WomenWork in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation will receive the emergency funds directly to their mobile money accounts.

In addition to the funding, program participants will not only receive a business needs assessment and be able to address any gaps with business experts but also join a network of diverse women entrepreneurs for peer support. Building off of the existing #WomenWorkKE Facebook group, all aspects of the program will be delivered online to meet the changing needs and preferences of women entrepreneurs.

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