Unequal access to jobs stifles economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Where females do paid work, they earn a third less on average than males, and their relative underemployment results in missing out on $95 billion a year, according to United Nations data. There are also technological imbalances: women are a quarter less likely than men to own a smartphone, depriving them of powerful tools to raise their income.
Kiteka addresses these problems with local solutions. Launched in Uganda in 2016, our fusion of start-up and social enterprise welcomes young women each month to its digital “Sisterhoods,” which offer courses and mentoring. To qualify for membership, entrepreneurs have to show they are committed to growing a business and to working collaboratively, with proficiency in English and social media skills.
Kiteka has a three-step process to enable young women to fight gender inequality and poverty with technology.
SMARTPHONE LOAN SCHEME – Support from Kiteka begins with a smartphone and specialised training in mobile applications. The cost of the handset is repaid in instalments, which are funded by the boost in earnings that it facilitates. Kiteka’s entrepreneurs run a range of small businesses, from market stalls to beauty salons. With a smartphone, they can supplement their income selling prepaid airtime and processing payments with mobile money. Being online also helps with promotions, while providing educational and financial services that make them more confident and independent. More than 75% of Kiteka women save money digitally, replacing cash that was often controlled by domestic partners.
TRAINING AND MENTORSHIP – Groups of between 8 to 12 Kiteka women gather monthly to receive technology and business training, helping them to make the most of their new equipment. The women also mentor each other through social channels, sharing ideas and brainstorming business challenges. Kiteka members also have the opportunity to apply for further coaching through the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
DIGITAL OUTSOURCING – The most transformative part of our programme helps women work from home on a flexible basis. We train them to do digital tasks for foreign clients, such as social media engagement for brands or labelling and cleaning data for AI and machine learning. This is secure and cost-effective both for companies and our women, who earn as much in two hours as from a full day’s market trading.
What impact has the initiative had or is expected to have?
Increasing Gender Equality: 90% of women have increased self-confidence and self-esteem and 82% say they now have more influence and responsibility in the household. Additionally, 100% of women feel the smartphone brings them more social status in their communities, and 89% of women feel safer.
Fighting Poverty: 81% of women have increased their profits. On average, profits have increased by 42%. Additionally, 75% of women report increased access to financial services, increasing earnings potential.
What is unique about this initiative? Can it be scaled-up and replicated in other places?
Kiteka is a young women-led organisation that expands through the creation of new “Sisterhoods” of low- income young women driven by entrepreneurial passion and digital opportunity. Each of the Kiteka “Sisterhoods” provides motivation for its members to complete the “Smartphone Sister” training and ensure that each of them have increased their basic digital knowledge and connection to the digital world. Many of the women have also taken a Kiteka smartphone on loan, as their first access to technology and the “Sisterhoods” operate as a self-governing accountability group. All of the women have an opportunity to digitalise their local businesses and begin to connect with the wider digital world from a personal and a professional basis. Kiteka is focused on ensuring safe and supportive access to the digital world, which is done hand in hand with the “Sisterhoods” through the training programme. Kiteka women continue to access other opportunities that are available through the network, such as digital content creation training, online business mentoring or employment opportunities.