Kismayo, Somalia: Approximately 70 Somali businesswomen participated this week in a forum to support access to finance for women-led enterprises, attended by esteemed ministers from the Jubaland Ministry of Women, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Fishery and Marine Resources, and Ministry of Trade and Commerce. The event provided an opportunity for women to hear about high-potential business models in growing economic sectors, hear from successful women entrepreneurs, and connect with financial service providers as well as technical experts from the Growth, Enterprise, Employment, and Livelihoods (GEEL) project. U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Y. Yamamoto said, “The United States is proud to support GEEL, which is leading the way in economic development and job creation. Access to financing, tools for business improvements, and hard work are key. Somali women entrepreneurs can start-up and scale-up their businesses and improve livelihoods for themselves and their communities.”
Encompassing value chains with huge growth potential in Somalia, the forum prioritized business models that are proven successful and likely to attract women, whose participation in formal and informal economies is essential for long-term economic development. An important aspect of growth for women-led businesses is access to financial products, like microloans, that boost production and lead to integration of innovative technologies and production of high-quality products. GEEL is working with local banks and finance providers to remove barriers for women to access finance. Via panel discussions and networking sessions, representatives of the financial sector offered participants financial information and tools for business growth. They included Dahabshil Bank, MicroDahab, Amal Bank, and Kaah International Microfinance Solutions (KIMS).
The event included discussion groups led by experts in the livestock (meat and dairy), fish, and agriculture (vegetables and fruits) sectors. Experts encouraged women to develop business concepts and begin working on competitive business plans using planning tools provided by the project.
Also in attendance were representatives from local women’s associations, community elders, and established women entrepreneurs who inspired participants regarding business strategies and the ways in which USAID, through the GEEL project, had supported the expansion and development of their businesses. Among them was Hersio Abdullah, founder of SomFresh Fruit and Vegetable Company, who said, “I sold my gold to continue my business. If you don’t invest in yourself, it’s hard for others to invest in you. Somali women have many opportunities, but it has to start with ourselves first. You can scale up your business if people see you as responsible and ready.”
This is the third Access to Finance for Women in Business event organized by the GEEL project. Previous forums were held in Hargeisa and Mogadishu in 2018.
The event was facilitated by the Growth, Enterprise, Employment & Livelihoods (GEEL) Project, a USAID-funded initiative that works with government partners and the private sector to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Somalia. The project builds the capacity of internal investors with a focus on value chains conducive to participation by demographics marginalized from pursuing economic opportunities, especially women and youth. GEEL has so far reached hundreds of women in diverse value chains, including livestock, fishing and agriculture, and energy, supporting milk traders, fish retail saleswomen, engineers, farmers, and businesswomen