The SheTrades initiative was launched by ITC in 2015 with the objective of connecting one million women entrepreneurs from around the world to global markets in the next five years. In Kenya, the initiative will operate under the banner SheTradesKE and will be implemented in cooperation with Barclays Kenya and various other partners.

Through the partnership, Barclays will leverage its expertise in financial services while ITC will employ its experience in business development to offer local women entrepreneurs support in critical areas, including financial management, in order to help them create and maintain links to international markets.

“A third of all small and medium enterprises in developing countries are led by women, yet these firms continue to face significant challenges in accessing global market opportunities. As such there is need for us to partner with like-minded institutions to invest in the capacity development of women-led SMEs as it will play a critical role in growing our economy,” said Jeremy Awori, Managing Director, Barclays Bank of Kenya speaking at the launch.

Mr Awori said that the Barclays would invest over Kshs. 70 million into the programme in the next 5 years.

Ms Arancha González, Executive Director of ITC said: “I am really pleased to launch this partnership with Barclays. Access to credit is a key constraint for women in business. It often confines them to the informal sector. Lack of credit limits the ability of women owned businesses to grow and generate jobs. Working together with Barclays in Kenya will go a long way in helping women in business access credit. It will be a win-win cooperation.”

In Kenya, women-owned businesses account for over 48% of all SMEs, contributing about 20% of the Kenyan gross domestic product (GDP).

“This partnership comes at an opportune time when SMEs are being globally recognised as vital economic growth and employment drivers. SheTradesKe presents us with a great opportunity to empower women in business and certainly draws us a step closer towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which seek to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, while curbing social and economic inequalities,” Mr Awori said.

By partnering with ITC on the SheTrades initiative, Barclays is restating its commitment to the support the growth of Kenyan SMEs, which currently contributes to more than half of the country’s GDP.

In December last year, the bank set up a Kshs. 5 billion fund to offer credit facilities to enterprises owned or run by women. This is in addition to the Kshs. 30 billion that the bank has earmarked to lend to SMEs in Kenya. The bank is currently running an SME outreach programme targeting to train 10,000 small and medium businesses across 11 major towns on business financial management.

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