Why the UK is backing Africa’s female entrepreneurs

'When women are economically empowered, their whole community benefits' says International Development Secretary Alok Sharma

CREATING OPPORTUNITIES: International Development Secretary Alok Sharma discusses ideas with female entrepreneurs during a recent trip to Nairobi

International Development Secretary Alok Sharma has announced that the UK is to play a greater role in supporting female entrepreneurs in Africa.

Speaking just before Monday’s UK-Africa Investment summit Sharma said that the UK would commit to boosting support to female entrepreneurs in Africa, helping them overcome barriers to starting businesses and connecting them to global markets.

The new plans will provide support female entrepreneurs to secure more investment through specialist business training, creating up to 3000 more jobs and aim to reduce inequality in the workplace.


UK support will also create potential investment and development partnerships for women entrepreneurs as well as see the government work with its counterparts in

in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya to develop tailored gender-inclusive trade policies.

Africa has the highest concentration of female entrepreneurs, accounting for almost a third of all businesses on the continent.

However their contributions to the continent’s economic growth remains low, primarily because many women face significant barriers to growing their businesses, such as obtaining investment from banks, with almost two thirds of women in Sub-Sahara Africa without bank accounts.

ECONOMICALLY EMPOWERED: International Development Secretary Alok Sharma meets girls learning how to code during a trip to Ethiopia. Picture: DFID/Anna Dubuis

According to Sharma supporting women-owned businesses to participate in global trade helps drive economic growth and reduce poverty.

He said: “When women are economically empowered, their whole community benefits. Africa’s full potential can only be realised if the energy and ideas of the whole population are unleashed.”

Sharma added that a key part of the UK’s plans was to scale up the successful SheTrades Commonwealth programme.

The initiative was launched in 2018 after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).


It has seen over 2,800 women entrepreneurs receive skills-based training, tailored business advice and mentoring to help them manage and promote their businesses better.

According to the Department for International Development (DFID) in countries where SheTrades is already working, it has generated over £18 million of revenue.

Ghanaian entrepreneur Leonie Badger, owner of the company Studio Badge, a design and manufacturing home décor brand, which has been supported by SheTrades, said: “I have been able to connect with new and potential buyers from all over the world that helps me promote the beauty and uniqueness of Ghanaian art for my business Studio Badge.

“Beyond that I have received technical training and mentorship that has inspired me to dream big and gain even more confidence in my product. She Trades has been transformational for my business and I am grateful and excited for the future.”

A DFID spokesperson said; “The long-term economic benefits of supporting women and girls are clear – for every $1 invested in vital reproductive health services, $120 is invested back in economies around the world. UK aid is not only helping to increase access to family planning and safe healthcare for women and girls, the SheTrades programme commits to making women leaders in business across African nations. 


The spokesperson added: “The UK-Africa Investment Summit will bring together businesses, governments and international organisations to strengthen the partnership between the UK and Africa and help generate billions of pounds of opportunities for both British and African businesses. This investment will deliver jobs and growth.

“By creating more economic opportunities for Africa’s women, it will help more women to enter the workforce, become more financially independent, and help lift their communities out of poverty.”

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