The Women Enterprise Fund was formed in 2007, soon after the Youth Enterprise Fund, to specifically cater for the micro finance needs of women engaged in entrepreneurship. Unlike the YEF which caps the age limit for loan applicants to 35 years, which is the statutory ceiling for youth in Kenya, the WEF lends to women of all ages. This means that smart enterprising women, especially those below 35, can benefit from both Funds.
Mumina Bonaya, the WEF chairperson, points out that so far, more than a million women have benefitted from the Fund. “1.2 million women, mostly engaged in agriculture throughout the value chain have benefitted from the Fund,” she says.
The Fund is present in all constituency government headquarters and only lends to organized groups. The average repayment rate is at 89 percent, which is quite impressive. More than 150 businesses have been in existence for more than three years, and are growing. The first three years for startups are the most critical as 90 percent of businesses shut down within this period.
The starting sum is Ksh100,000. This amount is graduated gradually upon repayment up to Ksh500,000. A business requiring more than Ksh500,000 is deemed to be vibrant enough to borrow from commercial banks. All loans are repayable in 12 months and are interest-free. However a nominal administration fee of 5 percent is charged.
The transition rate, from WEF dependency to mainstream financial market is encouraging. Women-led enterprises, it has been found, have a stronger bond amongst themselves and their businesses tend to outlive those started by men. Majority of successful women groups who have benefitted from the Fund reside in rural areas.
With well-thought out value chain development strategies, these groups can grow their businesses to commercially sustainable enterprises. There are various on-going interventions by both government and non-governmental organizations. The social objective of making women economically self-reliant means there’s a lot of money flowing from the government into the hands of hitherto marginalized groups. More importantly, it is giving women more impetus to engage in micro- entrepreneurship. Their collective efforts result in higher standards of living for thousands of families and a boost to Kenya’s gross domestic product.
WEF In figures as at 30th June 2016
No of Groups: 63,342 in 290 constituencies
Total loans disbursed: 6,281,221,530
Total loans due: 5,008,662,834
Total paid: 4,471,697,155
Average repayment rate: 89%
33 constituencies out of 290 have a 100% repayment rate
124 constituencies out of 290 have above 90% repayment rate