Supporting Women-Led MSMEs to Build Back Better Post-COVID-19

International Women’s Day 2021

To mark International Women’s Day, over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the impact of COVID-19 on gender issues, sharing potential ways to young women and girls to overcome the challenges they face, and celebrating stories of female resilience and innovation.

Gender equality is crucial to building thriving, inclusive, African economies and while both men and women are restricted by gender norms, young women disproportionately bear the burden of inequality. COVID-19 is setting back recent gains made towards women’s empowerment across the continent and a post-pandemic recovery that not only ensures women are not left behind, but accelerates also gender equity, will spur Africa’s economic growth and development.

How do we build a more equal post-COVID-19 world?

Micro, small and medium-sized business are vital to job growth in Africa. They make up more than 90% of all businesses in economies across the continent and account for the vast majority of jobs in the formal and informal sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa. While women comprise almost 60% of Africa’s self-employed workforce, gender barriers prevent them from accessing financial resources and operational supports that facilitate growth. These inequalities need to be addressed to ensure women-led SMEs can thrive during, and post-COVID-19.

As part of a collaboration with UN Women, ImpactHER conducted a survey of more than 1,300 women SME owners and 80% reported that they had to temporarily shut down their business. Of those still in operation:

  • 41% said that they had significantly reduced work hours
  • 34% had laid off workers
  • 25% had to reduce employees’ salaries

Empowering women entrepreneurs to access opportunities and overcome barriers

There are a number ways that development organizations, governments, and the private sector can come together to support women-led MSMEs and build a more equal post-pandemic world. The following are just a few that the Foundation is collaborating with partners on: