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LETTERS: How to make agribusiness work for women

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Letters

Traders sell fresh produce.
Traders sell fresh produce. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The African Green Revolution Forum 2018 has just ended in Kigali Rwanda. And befitting of the progress the country has made in gender equality and women’s empowerment – a day before the event the country held parliamentary elections and the proportion of women elected to parliament rose from 64 per cent – a group of organizations came together to put a spotlight on women in agribusiness.

At the meeting, I told the story of three women, Charity, Loise and Jane. In 2012, they founded Exotic EPZ Limited a company which processes macadamia nuts for export. When they decided to go into business together, nobody took them seriously. The banks said that as women with no property or land for collateral, they were too big a risk for a loan. The farmers they contacted were skeptical about women surviving in international trade, a business where “even men had failed”. But they were determined. They pulled together their savings, borrowed from friends and family. They started with 7.5 tonnes of shelled nuts each month.

They have now doubled that capacity and currently employ over 100 people, most of them women, and have created a market for thousands of smallholder macadamia farmers.

The story of Charity, Loise and Jane is about the huge opportunity that women agribusinesses present, but it is also a story of the challenges and gender barriers that women still face.Across the continent, 68 per cent of economically active women are in the agricultural sector.

The continent has the largest proportion of women entrepreneurs. However, no country in Africa has achieved parity in business ownership. Ghana has the highest proportion at 46.4 per cent of total businesses owned by women, followed by Uganda at 33.8 per cent and Botswana at 24.5 per cent.

And women still face numerous challenges in growing their agribusinesses. Despite expansion of microfinance organizations that are now reaching millions of women, research shows that the financing gap for women owned small and medium enterprises is about $20 billion.

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Women are still less likely to have bank accounts. In Zambia for example, only 26 per cent of women farmers have a bank account, compared to 49 per cent of men. And even when women apply for loans, they are less likely to be successful than men. SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship released a study on women owned businesses that showed that while 59 per cent of businesses owned by women would like financing, only 25 per cent sought the finance. And of those 25 per cent, only 31 per cent were successful. What are the actions that we can take to grow women businesses

First, we need to recognise that financial inclusion interventions are not gender neutral and the uptake and usage gaps would be reduced if products and services suited women’s needs and priorities. A lot of effort has been put into trying to make women bankable, training them, organising them into groups among other interventions.

We need a paradigm shift. We now need to make financial institutions women- able. Financial institutions usually have products that have population wide benefits (aimed at lifting all boats). And women have benefited from these.

But faced with gender barriers, there is need for innovations that meet the specific needs and priorities of women. Second, recognising the multiple needs of women owned businesses beyond financial inclusion and bundling services that they need.

Combining financial services, skills such as financial literacy, linking to business support services and mentoring can help women owned business thrive and grow. Research that we have been funding at the United States International University in Kenya has shown that when you only offer skills training to business owners, the likelihood that their businesses will be successful is 57 per cent. This increases to 93 per cent when you combine training, mentoring and business support services.

Third, integrating women in national and global supply chains, integrating them as suppliers of raw materials, as aggregators and as processors is key to enabling women to thrive. In Kenya and Uganda for example, over 20,000 women smallholder farmers are supplying beans to a company that is doing industrial precooking of beans.

Jemimah Njuki, senior programme specialist, Canada’s International Development Research.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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