Bayer Foundation publishes white paper on challenges female entrepreneurs face in sub-Saharan Africa

The insights shed light on how to effectively design and build supporting mechanisms to help female entrepreneurs tackle their specific challenges

Bayer Foundation's annual Women Empowerment Award

Lack of access to funding is the most prominent challenge female entrepreneurs face across sub-Saharan Africa, according to the latest research done by Bayer Foundation.

The research, analyzing over 500 Bayer Foundation Women Empowerment Award applications, aims to better understand the needs of female entrepreneurs, their impact on society, and the barriers they face while running their businesses.

“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 states.

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 Lessl adds.

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 explained.

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.”

Register to Bayer Foundation's Newsletter to get regular updates on the foundation´s work. Stay tuned for the 2023 Women Empowerment Award application phase starting early next year!

Bayer Foundation´s purpose is to catalyze advances in science and social innovation for a world with Health for All and Hunger for None. One of Bayer Foundation’s key missions in is fostering female empowerment. The foundation aims to empower female entrepreneurs to scale their innovations and generate positive social impact in sub-Saharan Africa. With this aim, Bayer Foundation launched the Women Empowerment Award in 2021 providing financial and non-financial support to female entrepreneurs from sub-Saharan Africa every year.

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