Think and act for entrepreneurship in Africa

Côte d’Ivoire

Innovative Investments Empower Women

This article was co-written by Ksapa and Investisseurs & Partenaires, and is also published on their website. The gender question is at the heart of the international debate. The eradication…

This article was co-written by Ksapa and Investisseurs & Partenaires, and is also published on their website.

The gender question is at the heart of the international debate. The eradication of discrimination against women and girls, the women’s empowerment and the parity between women and men are considered as key factors of development, respect of human rights, peace and world security. The Sustainable Development Goals have reaffirmed the key role of women’s empowerment in the democratic process, in order to take the necessary decisions on all aspects of sustainable development.

As such, Ksapa approached Investisseurs & Partenaires, a specialist in impact investing across the African continent, to discuss the implications of gender empowerment for the private sector. Together, we examine key figures on the challenges of gender empowerment, demonstrating its prevalence in rural areas of the African continent. Under the current conditions, how they can businesses and investors embed a solid gender perspective as part of their impact strategies to better address the challenges of the gender empowerment. Based on different initiatives led by Ksapa and I&P, we infer practical recommendations for mobilizing capital in favor of gender empowerment.

1. Key Issues in Gender Empowerment 

Gender empowerment implies, in essence, the equitable distribution of resources between men and women – as well as girls and boys. That is, in principle. In practice, gender empowerment may clash with deeply entrenched social attitudes – themselves translating into equally structural social, economic and cultural decisions.

  • Structural Disparities Between Men And Women

Men and women just like boys and girls are indeed not equal in the face of poverty and in their access to opportunities. Even less so in the context of interwoven climate, health and socioeconomic crises. Women account for less than a third of available human capital wealth in low and lower-middle-income countries. In South Asia, losses due to gender inequality are estimated at $9.1 trillion, compared to $6.7 trillion in Latin America and the Caribbean and $3.1 trillion in the Middle East and North Africa. In sub-Saharan Africa, they amount to $2.5 trillion. As such, the OECD publishes the social institutions and gender equality index, designed to measure, discrimination against women in social institutions at the international level. For example, in 2019, this index was 37.0 in Senegal, 42.8 in Côte d’Ivoire and 34.5 in Ghana.

  • Socio-Economic Impacts of Gender Empowerment

Despite heavy stigma, women now control 32% of the world’s wealth and generate an additional $5 trillion each year – at a much faster rate than in the past. In addition, for every dollar of investment raised, women-owned startups generate $0.78 in revenue, compared to $0.31 for male-led companies. As a result, gender parity in the workforce could generate a 26% increase in annual global GDP by 2025.

  • Zeroing in on Women in the African Agricultural Sector

Agriculture accounts for nearly 25% of Africa’s gross domestic product. In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, women make up nearly half of the workforce in this sector.

Across the continent, agriculture is the largest employer of women, accounting for 62% of the female workforce. In certain countries like Rwanda, Malawi and Burkina Faso, more than 90% of women work the land.

Female farmers’ work in Africa as elsewhere is subject to critical disparities – notably in terms of the division of labor and prevalence of informal work. In African agriculture, women tend to opt for specific crops and techniques and their work is not equally rewarded. When their work is in fact subject to a formal contract, the latter does not necessarily bear their name, often in favor of their husbands. Similarly, female farmers tend to be involved in local markets and retail trade, where men are generally more involved in wholesale trade, with a region-wide scope.

2. Embedding a Strong Robust Gender Perspective in Impact Investment Strategies 

Poverty alleviation and food security depend directly on the development of systematic solutions for gender empowerment. The African agricultural sector’s capacity to nurture stable livelihoods hinges on innovative measures designed to foster farmers’ access to land, capital and means of production – especially where women are concerned.

That is precisely why the World Bank developed a gender strategy for international project developers. The document lists 4 key levers to reduce gender gaps:

  • Awareness-Raising: Improve gender gaps by reducing access differentials in health, education and social protection (e.g. school/work transitions, gender stereotypes in the workplace, sexual and reproductive health rights…).
  • Opportunity: Remove barriers to further and better employment, boosting women’s participation, their opportunities to generate their own income and access to productive assets (keeping in mind key considerations of the burden of care, access to mobility and formal employment…).
  • Empowerment: Strengthen women’s voice and empower them by encouraging men and boys to share decision-making processes around delivering services, reducing gender-based violence and managing potentially conflictual situations.
  • Property: Remove barriers to women’s ownership and control of property, effectively improving their access to land, housing and technology.

Based on this strategy, investors – and development teams in particular – are encouraged to consider the means to engage with their potentially impacted stakeholders. That way, they may indeed better identify and assess concrete gender gaps; a series of efforts ultimately encompassed in a gender action plan.

3. Practical Examples of Capital Mobilization in Favour of Gender Empowerment 

  • Introducing 3 Agricultural Businesses Supported By I&P

For the last two decades, Investisseurs & Partenaires has committed to financing and supporting the emergence of African entrepreneurship champions. As an impact investor, I&P seeks a positive social and/or environmental return in addition to a significant financial performance, the impact of which is measured through a continuous evaluation process.

This approach is applied both in selecting potential investees and in the support afforded to the selected companies. It is also characterized by the Group’s emphasis on measuring investees’ social and/or environmental impact, based on priority objectives and progress monitoring methods against the projected positive impacts.

As part of its gender strategy in particular, I&P actively seeks to develop a pipeline of small and medium enterprises, either managed by women or with a major impact for women. I&P therefore systematically includes gender-specific action plans in its portfolio companies’ ESG action plans (with increase targets on the number of female employees, access to management positions, specific training, etc.). As such, 33% of the companies supported by I&P are managed by women.

Similarly, 79% of I&P’s portfolio meets at least one of the criteria of the 2X Challenge, an initiative of development banks to define what would be considered a women-friendly investment.

Within the I&P portfolio, the three following companies illustrate how a gender perspective can be developed and adapted to the agriculture sector:

    • Soafiary (Madagascar): Founded in 2006 by Malagasy promoter Malala Rabenoro, Soafiary specializes in the collection, processing and sale of cereals (corn, rice) and legumes (beans, cape peas, lentils, soybeans) on the local and international market.
    • Citrine (Côte d’Ivoire): Citrine Corporation processes and transforms cassava into fresh attiéké (cassava semolina) and placali (cassava paste) in southern Côte d’Ivoire and more specifically in Grand-Bassam.
    • Rose Eclat (Burkina Faso): Rose Eclat is a family business launched in 1999 by Rosemonde Touré. A fruit and vegetable processing company, the company markets nationally and internationally processed and/or dried fruits and vegetables. It produces mainly mango but also bananas, okra, strawberries and onions – which are certified organic and comply with the food safety management system (HACCP).
  • Commonalities and specificities of I&P Investees

Emblematic of I&P’s work on gender empowerment in the agriculture sector, all three companies are committed gender equality and empowerment. Soafiary in particular translated this policy into a roadmap that encapsulates its commitments to gender equality and empowerment. This written document indeed outlines the company’s gender policy, as a concrete tool to monitor– both internally and externally – progress made and measures implemented by the company to foster gender equality.

All three companies prioritize the recruitment of women for seasonal jobs and do not apply any form of gender discrimination in recruiting for permanent jobs. Women are also involved in the corporate decision-making processes and hold various positions of responsibility. As a result, men and women have equal opportunities for career advancement, either by tapping into permanent or seasonal employment – all of this with comparable pay. Women also benefit from on-the-job training. Rose Eclat additionally gives women the opportunity to train outside the company for career advancement or to become self-employed.

The three companies also emphasize women’s physical and moral integrity in and outside of the workplace, ensuring they can access healthcare and social protection. Soafiary also set up a financial inclusion and banking system specific to women. Access to financial products and services allows women to anticipate the financing of their long and medium-term goals or to face unexpected events. Moreover, savings begets credit and vice versa.

  • Shared Perspectives with Ksapa’s SUTTI Initiative

Echoing I&P’s focus on training, Ksapa launched the Scale-up Training, Traceability, Impact initiative (SUTTI) for the development of responsible agricultural supply chains. Through this new platform, smallholders can access technical and operational training and education. The goal is optimize their crop and agricultural economic production, improve the quality of their livelihoods by increasing their income, diversifying activities and reducing poverty. Not only does this foster gender parity, it is also key to retain young farmers in rural areas.

Through the development of our own digital application, we combine analysis and evaluation, coalition structuring and pilot calibration, program implementation and impact monitoring. That is indeed how Ksapa measures SUTTI impacts and its contributions to gender empowerment in particular, in the form of their inclusion into the program. Through training, SUTTI supports gender empowerment, opening up the conventional division of labor and women’s potential to sell and manage the product of their labor and operate diversified income activities.

Because women bear the brunt of lacking financial inclusion, literacy and digital literacy, the SUTTI solution targets optimal accessibility for women. The program indeed focuses on diversifying smallholders’ income, thereby developing additional leverage for gender empowerment in agricultural areas.

In short, this approach aims to unlock the following 4 key challenges:

CORE ISSUES  RELEVANT SOLUTIONS
Low productivity tied to lacking access to information and services as well as climate change, major weather variability and pest and disease outbreaks  Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Awareness: Deliver face-to-face and digital sessions to support smallholders’ income generation through crop diversification, water efficiency and perhaps carbon credits. Through a digital application, videos and tutorials can indeed be shared that support practical tests and the direct implementation of GAPs across the farm. Decision support tools: digital apps can include a community chat feature that allows smallholders to share questions and decide how best to implement GAP. A marketplace function offers smallholders the opportunity to share price/volume information and decide just where and when to sell. Overcoming language and digital literacy barriers: Tailoring solutions to the needs of smallholders involves translating content into local languages and perhaps including a text-to-speech feature for the benefit of less literate farmers.
Lack of access  to appropriate financial/insurance products Develop financial solutions for smallholders, paid for example with tokens issued through a carbon offset system.
Women’s lacking access to digital services  Organize women-specific training groups (e.g., recruit 1 all-female cohort for every 3) to identify and meet the particular needs of female farmers. Adapt content accordingly (e.g., including gender perspectives, especially targeting on-farm health and safety training content).
Smallholders lacking access and ability to select markets and sales methods  Structure a supply of inputs to smallholders, paid for instance via  carbon offsets and revenue from a gamification tool – encouraging them to regularly fill-out impact monitoring questionnaires. Boost market access by supporting year-round crop diversification outside the production cycle of farmers’ main crop. Strengthen decision support tools – allowing smallholders to identify new marketing channels, track their transactions and identify the best options for buying/selling their crops

Conclusion

At the helm of their respective impact programs, I&P and Ksapa outline the following commonalities in their integration of a robust strong gender perspective as part of the impact investment strategies:

  • Prioritize gender empowerment in designing agricultural development projects; 
  • Identify the agricultural sector’s direct and indirect contributions to gender dynamics;  
  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities in developing a robust gender perspective; 
  • Allocate specific resources to empowering female farmers; 
  • Develop stakeholder engagement and grievance mechanisms specific to female farmers. 
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Digital technology to increase school success rates in Africa

It is October 2018, 18 years since I left the school where I spent all my secondary education from the 6th grade to 12th grade. It was the local school…

It is October 2018, 18 years since I left the school where I spent all my secondary education from the 6th grade to 12th grade. It was the local school in the largest municipality of Abidjan, a large municipality with a high population density, but also and especially significant a school with a high student/teacher ratio, at that time: 80 pupils per class on average. In 2018 I found it split into 2 parts for better management of the excessive number of students, but in the same old buildings dating back more than 30 years.

Enthusiasm and nostalgia perfectly reflected my feelings when I go to present my project, a heart-felt project of great ambition: to raise the success rate for the Baccalaureate (at age  18) examination of this school, which is around 30%, similar to the Cote d’Ivoire national average for the Baccalaureate (40% on average over the last 5 years).

My name is Christelle HIEN-KOUAME, marketing and communication engineer, I have been an entrepreneur for 9 years in the field of communication and marketing, and I am passionate about the education offered to students in my country and my continent.

Help to raise the national school examination success rate, is it not too ambitious a goal?

Work in the education field is exciting and demands commitment because it concerns everybody – from the educational level of household employees to the professional performance of the employees in a firm, we are all impacted. So, for my part, it is essential to contribute in our way and with our means.

The project – www.prenezlesfeuilles.com

The initial project was to offer students a revision toolbox, a digital collection of homework and exams from the best schools in Côte d’Ivoire to:

– Prepare them to do well in their homework and exams, with tools adapted and customized: Homework and exams are defined by a school schedule in our education system

– Give them back their self-confidence, because, in reality, a child in the 3rd grade of a school well graded in the capital does not have the same level as a student in the same cycle in another part of the country!

Having defined my two primary objectives, I turned to digital solutions to offer an accessible, reliable, and innovative approach to the students. I started without any digital experience, and with only the funds of my communication agency. I collected homework from all disciplines and from institutions which had at least 70% success rate in the Baccalaureate.

My project was born. It was stolen in a neighboring country, and was therefore renamed one year later as www.prenezlesfeuilles.com, was officially presented to the authorities (Ministry of National Education), was appreciated, and finally allowed to be spread to students in all schools in the country. The difficulties of its beginning have given it more resilience, and more objectives to achieve. Making homework and exams available to students became restrictive. We had to offer more alternatives to encourage them to do their homework challenge them, motivate them to surpass themselves regardless of their series or disciplines chosen, and do better than we did in the past.

Evolution of the project

After an analysis of the success factors, one key factor seemed irrefutable (other than the environment and motivation): learning tools.

We then integrated three important tools to the platform: Motivation by reward by offering gifts for quizzes or exercises performed correctly within a given time frame, Orientation assistance by talking about jobs with different people, and enriching experiences, and Small general culture broadcasts on WhatsApp.

In August 2019 www.prenezlesfeuilles was acquired by ENEZA EDUCATION, a technology company, initiator of another innovative educational service via mobile that offers tutorials and quizzes via the SMS channel of mobile phones. Today, the Cote d’Ivoire student has access to the lessons of the entire school program explained in tutorials, and with quizzes allowing them to test their knowledge. The website www.prenezlesfeuilles.com helps students to prepare for future tests based on homework already done in the best institutions in the country.

The next challenge is to make this solution better known to all students and parents throughout the country and to prove its real impact on subscribers’ academic results.

I love to take challenges up! Like when I was 18 and I was the only girl in a science final year class in a high school in the commune of Yopougon (a working-class district in Abidjan), and succeeded at the Baccalaureate. Or like the challenge 9 years ago when I resigned from my job to set up as a young entrepreneur, and I had to assume my choice and everything that entailed. Taking up challenges is not for euphoria or pleasure but giving back a part of what we have graciously received from the family, the State and society. Because giving back is to be more alive!

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How businesses bounce back after conflicts: lessons from Côte d’Ivoire

Ibrahima Dosso and Florian Léon for The Conversation. For developing countries to have lasting development, they must have economic systems that are resilient to shocks such as climate change, natural…

Ibrahima Dosso and Florian Léon for The Conversation.

For developing countries to have lasting development, they must have economic systems that are resilient to shocks such as climate change, natural disasters and conflict.

Recent research has focused on evaluating the long-term effects of these potential economic shocks, and how to mitigate them. For example, several studies highlighted the fact that natural disasters and violent conflict have long-term effects on households.

In a recent study we looked at the resilience of businesses in Côte d’Ivoire after the 2010-2011 electoral crisis. Businesses play a vital role in Côte d’Ivoire’s economy. Small to medium-sized businesses alone employ nearly half the working population and account for around 20% of the country’s GDP. Yet few studies have looked at the mid to long-term effects of adverse shocks on businesses.

Côte d’Ivoire endured a protracted crisis when the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to leave office following his defeat to Alassane Ouattara in the presidential run-off election of 2010. This resulted in widespread violence. The death toll has been put at over 3 000 and the number of displaced people at 700 000. The political standoff ended in April 2011 when military forces loyal to President Ouattara arrested Gbagbo.

We found that businesses did indeed recover, but that there were disparities in how quickly they did based on their size. For example, businesses more able to rebound tended to be those that were smaller (10 employees or less) or those that had access to credit.

After a shock

Although economic activity may contract following a shock, it does not disappear.

Extreme events tend to stimulate the development of informal economic activity. In addition, surviving businesses may benefit from a massive influx of external aid (financial, human and material), or the disappearance of competition. The effects can be differentiated according to the specific characteristics of the businesses and according to their sector.

Despite the brevity of Côte d’Ivoire’s conflict, it had profound consequences. Economic activity was severely disrupted, with an embargo on many exports, the closure of banks, and limited access to certain goods – such as medicines and fuels.

After Gbagbo’s arrest, fighting rapidly died down and the economy was able to recover in the post-crisis years.

Our study involved monitoring the activity of all formal businesses in Côte d’Ivoire (both local and foreign) from two years before the crisis to three years afterward. This enabled us to gain an understanding of how businesses bounced back from the crisis.

Our results show that three years after the crisis, businesses had made up only half of their productivity losses. However, this average masks large individual disparities.

There are several reasons why smaller companies with less than 10 employees were able to bounce back more quickly.

First of all, smaller organisations are more flexible in the face of an uncertain future. Secondly, they are more oriented towards local markets, making them less sensitive to disturbances in infrastructure. Their management system is also far simpler, enabling them to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, and to logistical challenges.

Conversely, businesses with foreign investment, which are more externally oriented and therefore require access to foreign markets (ports and roads), suffered more than local businesses, both during and after the crisis.

These businesses were weakened by restricted access to external markets, in terms of both inputs and sales. Furthermore, they were probably hit particularly hard by the exodus of foreign workers.

Our study provides two other interesting results relating to previous research.

First, businesses using more highly qualified workers or employing more executives were particularly affected. This is because many qualified workers come from neighbouring countries, or more distant ones, such as France, and were the first to flee when the violence began. Many probably never went back.

Access to financing is a major advantage

Our research also highlighted the importance of access to capital to help with business recovery.

The businesses that were the least restricted financially prior to the crisis bounced back with the most ease. Banks suffering from the effects of the crisis probably favoured their older clients over other businesses. Banks in Côte d’Ivoire suffered an increase in delinquent loans in 2011, according to data from the banking commission of the West African Monetary Union (WAMU).

This result confirms a study on Sri Lankan businesses after the December 2004 tsunami, which showed that financial aid enabled a quicker economic recovery.

Helpful insights

Our research sheds interesting light on the construction of resilient economic systems. While calling on qualified workers and executives is crucial for business development, it can be a source of vulnerability when a shock occurs. Businesses that are too dependent on a small number of individual employees can be severely affected by their death or flight.

It is therefore important to find tools to mitigate these vulnerabilities by developing training for executives, engineers and technicians to grow the available pool of human resources, and by encouraging the return and re-training of these workers following a sudden shock (conflict or natural disaster).

Quick access to capital is also crucial for economic recovery. Emergency tools, such as IMF emergency loans, can be developed to facilitate the targeting and granting of loans post-crisis.

Furthermore, banking regulations can also be adjusted for extreme situations. For instance, a moratorium on capital ratios could be considered to enable banks to continue to finance current activity.

Lastly, it appears vital to extend this reflection beyond the banking sector (to insurance and capital investment companies, for example) and to use technological advances (such as mobile banking and fintechs) to mobilise and allocate funds in an efficient and cost-effective way.

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Improving health services through entrepreneurship: the case of the clinic PROCRÉA

Based in Abidjan, the clinic PROCRÉA offers a range of medical services dedicated to reproductive health. Founded in 2008, it stands as the leader in Côte d’Ivoire for medically assisted…

Based in Abidjan, the clinic PROCRÉA offers a range of medical services dedicated to reproductive health. Founded in 2008, it stands as the leader in Côte d’Ivoire for medically assisted reproduction, a technique that allows people who have difficulty having a child to successfully give birth. Popularizing this practice and making it accessible to the greatest number of people is at the heart of the vision of the clinic’s founder and current director, Dr. Myriam Kadio-Morokro BROU. A brief review of her career path, the obstacles she encountered and her motivations.

 

A career dedicated to medicine… and entrepreneurship

At the head of the clinic PROCRÉA, Myriam Kadio-Morokro Brou serves two functions: that of a doctor and that of a company manager. “Basically, I did not see myself working as a civil servant, which is the usual career path for healthcare practitioners in Côte d’Ivoire. Today I combine the two aspects of my activity, both of which fascinate me: practicing my profession as a doctor and managing the clinic as an entrepreneur.”

“I have always believed that entrepreneurship is essential to improve people’s living conditions. It is obvious in the sector of reproduction: it is a research profession, which requires us to move forward with our time and take certain risks”

Myriam Brou pursued her medical studies in Abidjan, where she completed a thesis on the biology of reproduction. She then moved to France to specialize in this area. At the Pierre and Marie Curie Faculty of Medicine, she specialized in reproductive biology, sterility therapy, molecular cytogenetics, and worked in several hospitals and laboratories. But her return to Côte d’Ivoire has always been an evidence:

“There is no reason that such fundamental practices should not be available in Africa! When I returned to Côte d’Ivoire in 2005, I decided to create a fertility center based on the European model but adapted to African realities.”

 

A private initiative with high impact

PROCRÉA’s offer is unique in Côte d’Ivoire, where there are very few local private initiatives in the health sector. This is explained by the fact that the vast majority of Ivorian doctors are civil servants. “Few doctors here have what we could call the “entrepreneurial spirit”, compared for example to Anglophone African countries. It is often difficult for us to find the right profiles, and recruitment is one of our main problems. The training component is essential within our team, which now has about fifty people”.

Specialized in reproductive health, PROCRÉA is working on a controversial subject, linked to many taboos in Côte d’Ivoire and the sub-region. “We are talking of delicate, sometimes intimate issues… which can also challenge certain beliefs. For example, it is still not very well understood that infertility can come from men, especially in rural areas. Mentalities are changing, but it takes time. One thing is sure: the needs are real!”

PROCREA expands access to medically assisted reproduction while guaranteeing the same standards as in North Africa or Europe. The patients are mainly from the middle class, and most of them would not have been able to afford to be treated abroad. The clinic is also looking to make this care accessible to the “lower” classes. The current reflection focuses in particular on microfinance, which could be a way to finance, at least partially, the treatment and follow-up provided by PROCREA.

 

The Clinic PROCRÉA is an interesting example of a private initiative seeking to improve local living conditions and healthcare access. Overcoming certain obstacles linked to the context (taboos, recruitment, financing, etc.), the clinic has become a leader in reproductive, maternal and child health in the past ten years. This success is due to the will of its founder, but also to the relevance of its care offer.

 

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