Investing in Women: The next mission in mitigating COVID economic backlash.

It was the 31st of December the outbreak then known as the ‘viral pneumonia’ broke out in Wuhan, China. The months that followed were marked by the vast and quick spread of the virus which finally came to be globally accepted as the Novel Corona Virus. The world since then has gone through myriad of changes as life continued behind closed doors most of the year 2020. World economies took hit after hit as contraction which consequentially led to mass unemployment caused by layoffs as companies were forced to go through the process of downsizing to reduce their costs to match their declining revenues. In severe cases companies large and small filed bankruptcy, a year into the outbreak. Surveys have been conducted to understand the levity of the situation as organizations and firms in line with governmental bodies looked towards alleviating the issue at hand. By the same token data has been collected by the World Bank Group in the month of October in 2020 to show the magnitude of the shock or how firms are adjusting to setbacks from the peak season to the weeks that followed. [ for more information look into ‘Unmasking the impact of Covid- 19 on Businesses’]

In the midst of this chaos, Ethiopia; a third world nation with high rates of development scored within the last decade has seen better days as the global economic recession’s brutal sweep has also tinged the fragile local economy. The progress that was recorded came to a halt as production decreased as a factor of other internal and external issues. Bodies of the government together with proponents of the private sector have been on the forefront battling their way to mitigate its impact. The focus point here is how said bodies wound down to provide a safe environment for the small and medium enterprises located within the borders of the country. But they have already taken a hit regardless of any protective measures to soften the blow. The ‘hit’ came in the form of running out of liquidity due to the decreased revenues stream and increasing costs. After three years since Covid spread, these enterprises can’t stand on their feet without a much-needed boost. So, are there any operations that are individually helping to alleviate this situation? You might feel obliged to look elsewhere maybe from outside as opposed to our own However an initiative has been taken by none other than R&D Ethiopia – an entrepreneurship and outsourcing center that’s an expert in constructing the next generation of modern enterprises has coupled up with IFC (International Finance Corporation- a sister organization of World Bank) in the form of a 10-day training session that lasted from the 12th of July till the 23rd at Inter-luxury Hotel, Addis Ababa.

This capacity building venture had the objective of enabling SMEs in Ethiopia to adopt ways that help mitigate their businesses off financial risks by designing and implementing policies to manage their enterprises during crisis. What makes it different however is that it has taken consideration to the gender gap in business closure rates. It is with evidence that businesses owned by women were prone to closure by 5.9% percent. [for more information visit: The global state of small businesses].  The company therefore deemed it necessary to take a step in presenting opportunities to women entrepreneurs regarding access to finance to boost their businesses.

Throughout the engagement, trainers guided the participants through the program, which took the style of blended training whereby half were engaged physically and half virtually focusing on individual development and enhancing their understanding of the specific topic. The approach leveraged the relationships between people and recognized the individual connected to its group that further helped them understand their potential in realizing personal and organizational goal. This was conducted through an 80/20 approach whereby the larger component focused on different activities the trainees participated on and the smaller on an intensive lecture on listed issues. The training was narrowed down to titles: Leadership skills, marketing, Customer care and financial skills, Business positioning and planning that further on urged both trainers and participants in forming connections within a conducive environment.

   A key intake from a proactive participant was that ‘the fine line between expenses and costs were narrowed so far that it was neglected. It is now that we have identified the difference that we see a clearer perspective on how to break our ventures down into significant financial terms.’ What’s more, the process of handling the business’s accounts was seen to be external from the perspective of a trainee who participated during the program. She further on enunciated the need of understanding the basic principles of handling once own accounts as the most basic skill an entrepreneur should have. She now firmly believes that she will implement the skills she learned through the whole process. In the case of the essentials of customer care, it is agreed upon by the mass that the issue is sensitive as most firms face problems with their employees on how to approach with care. An entrepreneur forwarded ‘We need to value our clients and also give them the right amount of care, with quality products. We also need to be aware of promotions based upon high quality and affordable price, knowing what our target groups want, the locations regarding where it is best to find our target groups and match the demand and supply, and delivery of products timely in quality.’ She concluded that every little detail down to what to wear and how to present oneself counts.

This all-intensive, capacity building program also highlighted the ever-present link between management of finance and management of behaviors to better plan and execute business ideas within the private sectors. It gave heed to the needs of women entrepreneurs that seem to face the levity of the situation more. The successful closing held on the 23rd of July has given more hope to the ones that partook in this influential journey with R&D Group. What’s more, R&D with twelve years of experience in its ventures will set out in journeys to best suit our state’s market system in pushing forward towards the next era.