Esteemed speakers, panelists and guests, good morning.
I’m genuinely delighted to be co-hosting this Women in Business breakfast meeting this morning, with our close partner KEPSA, and am really looking forward to hearing the experiences of the incredibly inspiring speakers on this morning’s panel.
The Embassy of Ireland supports a number of initiatives in Kenya in which we are trying to focus more on the gender equality aspects – including targeting women in small scale businesses, enhancing value chains especially in agriculture where a majority of women are active, and supporting girls education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths through the Young Scientists Kenya initiative.
We have been working closely with KEPSA over recent years to develop a Business Hub for SMEs in Kenya and we wanted to ensure that one of its primary functions is to support women-led and women-run businesses.
Women’s economic empowerment is key to sustainable development and to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Supporting this KEPSA women in business breakfast meeting is a hugely positive and exciting step in that direction.
The number of women in business and female-owned companies has been steadily on the rise globally; in fact according to a study in the U.S, over 8 million firms in the U.S alone are now owned by women, hiring more than 7 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in revenue. This has to be a very good indicator of things to come….
According to the most recently available statistics for Kenya, in 2016, 47.9 percent of certified Micro Small and Medium Enterprises in Kenya were owned by men versus 32.2 percent owned by women. In the informal sector, however, this proportion increases as women are increasingly driven to run businesses in order to care for their families – rather than seeing them as business opportunities.
SMEs and start-ups are critical players in all economies. In Ireland, SMEs account for approximately 70 per cent of private sector employment, and it is believed that two in every three new jobs are created by SMEs.
The role of Irish women entrepreneurs is an essential part of Ireland’s business environment with over 12,000 women each year setting up in business and there is still great untapped potential to be realised.
However, like in Kenya, Ireland’s entrepreneurs also struggle with challenges like competition for talent, relentless pressure on margins, raising finance and access to credit and the unpredictability of global developments such as Brexit.
At the Embassy of Ireland, we’ve been trying to address some of these challenges in the agribusiness sphere. We are soon to launch a catalytic fund for SMEs in the potato, dairy/livestock and fisheries value chains which are led by women or which can demonstrate a social impact, through job creation of youth or climate action. We also promote the Africa Agriculture Development Programme (AADP), a matching grant facility that supports joint ventures between Irish and Kenyan companies.
Initiatives like this mentorship breakfast are hugely helpful in harnessing the experience of seasoned female entrepreneurs, in learning from their wisdom and for opportunities for mentorship.
We are very fortunate to have such an excellent panel this morning, representing successful start-ups, SMEs and large commercial companies.
Being an entrepreneur is probably one of the toughest roles there is, especially for women, but you don’t have to go through the journey alone.
This morning, we are surrounded by women who have been in the trenches of either building successful businesses or running multinational companies and who have incredible stories to share. Successes and failures; both are equally important in terms of learning.
As a representative of the Irish Government, I would like to reiterate our commitment to supporting women and gender initiatives and sincerely thank KEPSA for organising this event. Special thanks to KEPSA’s Deputy CEO, Rachel for being MC, and to Timothy who has been such an excellent champion for women-led SMEs. I personally strongly believe that we need men like you alongside us in the promotion of women’s economic empowerment.
I also believe that such discussions provide a safe and enriching platform where women can support each other build successful and sustainable businesses that solve critical issues in society.
Thank you and enjoy listening to our remarkable speakers. I think that their insights will give us all the inspiration and energy to continue to strive to achieve these ambitions.