KENYA – Women-run enterprises have secured a KSh1.5 billion (US$13.85m) emergency loan through MasterCard Foundation and WomenWork Network to cushion them against the adverse effects of COVID-19.

The Rebuild Program which is part of part of the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program targets 25,000 businesses with emergency loan facility aimed at providing a soft landing against COVID-19 which has disproportionately affected women-owned businesses.

“The Rebuild Program provides us 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,” WomenWork Network co-founder Asha Mweru said.

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

Besides cushioning the economy, MasterCard Foundation has said the fund will ensure business continuity to the women-led Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises with less than ten employees and a turn-over below KSh500,000 (US$4,616).

“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,” Daniel Hailu, Regional Head Eastern and Southern Africa, Mastercard Foundation said.

“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.”

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 Kenya Shillings 31,200 through mobile phones. However, borrowers can apply for additional emergency loans after repayment of the first one.

“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,” Mweru said.

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 KSh5 million (US$0.46m) annually.

The Rebuild business support loans for women-owned businesses by WomenWork is part of the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program including three other organisations, with technical support from the Grassroots Business Fund and 4G Capital.

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