The research is clear: empowered, educated girls are powerful agents for change. For every year of schooling a girl completes, her earning ability exponentially increases. Research has also shown that a girl is more likely to reinvest [90%] of that rising income into her family, compared to [35%] for boys.
Adolescent girls are one of the most powerful forces for change on the planet. The right support, products and services can not only transform their lives; it also has a domino effect. The contribution of young girls can impact the lives of their families, communities, and entire societies — men, boys, brothers, and fathers included. Families become stronger, school attendance increases, and agricultural productivity goes up as rates of child marriage, teen pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS go down.
This month [January], UK Aid, the Nike Foundation and USAID, organizations with a strong mission to end global poverty will lend their support to the launch of the SPRING Accelerator, and together they will provide a platform for business ventures to grow and scale, in order to reach a largely untapped population while bringing life-enhancing products and services to girls who need them the most. SPRING is a new accelerator that will initially launch in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda; over the next five years, it will expand its program to Tanzania, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. “What sets our accelerator apart is our work with local and global entrepreneur networks to provide financing, world-class mentors, and leading expertise in business growth, human-centered design, innovation and marketing”, says SPRING team leader Pauline Mwangi.
THE PRIVATE SECTOR IS AN ENGINE FOR GROWTH IN AFRICA & ASIA
The African continent continues to be riddled with a myriad of social and economic challenges, which are being tackled by a good number of development partners. East Africa in particular, is a dynamic hub with new businesses sprouting up each day that have the potential to address the challenges of widespread poverty and unemployment. In selecting specific countries to be included in SPRING, the team engaged in discussions with businesses, investors and local business development intermediaries around the world, and gathered research on girls to identify countries where the need for support to vulnerable girls was high, and where an existing pool of businesses and innovation hubs were present. Kenya for one, is a start-up success story which thrives in a vibrant economy; thousands of jobs are created due to the innovations and necessities experienced by lay citizens. The youth population is the fastest growing market segment in Africa and girls in these three countries [Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda] represent an estimated ten million individuals or 13% of the population. The potential of serving girls through market forces could bring about transformation.
ENGAGING BUSINESSES ON THE GROUND
Many different types of multi-sector companies from finance to the beauty industry could potentially qualify for SPRING. Potential applicants will include viable companies that generate revenue and have been in existence for a minimum of one year, businesses with girls as an existing or potential target market, and furthermore, must create physical, digital, or financial assets that positively affect girls’ ability to learn, earn, save, protect and invest. Selected businesses are required to have local representation in Kenya, Uganda, or Rwanda by May 2015 and should be looking to scale their businesses in country.
The major benefits include up to $80,000 in grant funding and the opportunity to work with world-class product and business designers. The entrepreneurs will collaborate with expert local and global mentors as well as join a powerful network of sponsors, investors, business leaders, and partners. They will additionally harness the power of peer-to-peer collaboration and gain access to data and business intelligence.
SUSTAINABILITY IS KEY TO POTENTIAL GROWTH
The accelerator has even more ambitious long term goals. Within five years, they seek to support businesses to reach at least 200,000 girls with products that enhance their economic empowerment, with an ultimate goal of reaching fifty million girls by 2030. “We hope that through our work, we can build and share evidence and success stories which will stimulate further investment from donors, governments and the private sector”, says Mwangi.
Sustainability is at the core of the SPRING Accelerator. The goal of SPRING is to address the needs of girls, which in turn multiplies the same benefits to their communities. Successful prototypes and business models will ultimately prove beneficial to the business and the impact on the quest to end global poverty will be immeasurable. The relationships and networks built during training will foster accountability for the future growth of businesses. Companies that succeed in aligning the three core elements of the application process [viability of business practice, potential for impact and strength of leadership and team] will have clearly presented the attributes that are required for sustainable practices in the long run.
Mwangi and her team look forward to the program’s launch and anticipate their work with local business to be rewarding. “By enabling successful companies, we are also helping to build the business case and evidence that will help executives, heads of corporations, investors and entrepreneurs adopt thought out business strategies to address global problems”. Her belief in the impact of local businesses is so strong that she wants the private sector to think even more globally about this first step. “We want businesses to think —‘Adolescent girls and young women might be my next market. If I see them as a powerful, positive, investable force, a force to design products for, design products with, market to, engage, does that present new opportunities for me? For us? For the planet?’ ”.
Image: SPRING/Courtesy Growth Africa
Olusheyi Lawoyin is the Founder & Creative Director of The Voix.