RWANDA – Kasha, an e-commerce platform improving women’s access to genuine health, hygiene and self-care products in East Africa, has secured a US$1 million investment from Finnfund to expand further across Africa.

Kasha was founded in Rwanda in 2016 by two former Microsoft employees, Joanna Bichsel and Amanda Arch. The startup has since expanded to Kenya.

It sells menstrual care products, contraceptives, pharmaceuticals and a range of beauty products, and delivers to customers confidentially.

“We are a very purpose-driven company with a strong focus on our customers. We deliver the products that women actually want and need in a way that is most private and discreet for them,” said Kasha chief executive officer (CEO) Joanna Bichsel.

“What drives us is that we can change the way women in emerging markets get their health products. Partnering with Finnfund, we look forward to growing our presence in Rwanda and Kenya as well as expanding to other countries in Africa – and eventually to other parts of the world.”

The startup allows customers to place orders for products via its website, a mobile app, SMS shortcode or phone call. It does not require a smartphone or internet connection, and is focused on female empowerment and self-care.

So far it has served over 55,000 clients and delivered close to 600,000 products across its two markets, and it now plans to expand into new markets.

Finnfund started negotiations with Kasha in February 2020, with the company’s investment manager Johanna Raehalme saying it was convinced by the startup’s strong mission and saw that e-commerce was rapidly growing its share of consumer spending.

“During the investment process, Kasha’s role has become more relevant than ever. At the moment, they are preparing for an active role in protecting people from COVID-19,” said Raehalme.

The investment in Kasha also fulfils a key criterion for Finnfund in that the startup promotes gender equality.

“This investment fills all the 2X Challenge criteria that we apply to our gender investments,” said Raehalme.

“Kasha increases the access to health products and health information while also employing low-income women in the rural communities as Kasha agents. The company was founded by two women, 50 per cent of senior management are women and 50 per cent of the board members are women.”

Finnfund said it is committed to investing US$114.76 million in businesses that advance gender equality between 2019 and 2021.