The Mastercard Foundation has announced a series of key partnerships that will bring relief and build the resilience of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya.In a statement released on Thursday, Mastercard Foundation said as the effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic ripple through economies, women and young people are expected to bear the greatest burden.This will be as a result of reduced employment opportunities, layoffs and poorly performing MSMEs, most of which are led and owned by women and young people.”The organisations that will start rolling out the interventions targeting MSMEs this month, through support from the Mastercard Foundation Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience Program, are Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), WomenWork Network, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KNCCI), and TechnoServe, with technical support from the Grassroots Business Fund and 4G Capital,” the foundation stated.

The commitment from the Mastercard Foundation to the four lead partner organisations totalled to USD15 million  (Sh1.6 billion) and will support a series of interventions that will facilitate business continuity, especially for those MSMEs led and owned by young women and help to cushion the economy in Kenya.“MSME’s are the backbone of the economy and they need support more than ever.

The Mastercard Foundation is proud to work with these partners to deliver tailored support to tens of thousands of MSMEs with the aim of helping them sustain their activities and continue to provide opportunities for dignified work,”  Daniel Hailu, Regional Head Eastern and Southern Africa at the Mastercard Foundation said.Kepsa, in close collaboration with the GoK, will target 400 MSMEs to access an emergency finance facility that will be managed by Grassroots Business Fund as the independent Fund Manager.The partnership will include the roll out of a virtual MSMEs business recovery hub to provide business development service as well as increasing Kepsa’s ability to support women businesses.The partnership with WomenWork Network through their Rebuild Program, will focus on low cost loans to  women-led MSMEs to enable the businesses to withstand the significant revenue drops they are currently experiencing.The low cost emergency loans will enable them to sustain jobs that may otherwise have been lost and access tailored online business training.The Rebuild program will be available to the over 4,000 women who are members of the  #Womenworkke Facebook group.The Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) will run interventions that include low cost businesses loans to deserving MSMEs and a trade digital platform to support an e-commerce ecosystem to make the enterprises more agile and resilient.The intervention will target 15,000 direct members of KNCCI, supplemented by 85,000 KNCCI association members, especially focusing on the hawkers, the fashion industry, Jua Kali, retailers, and restaurants.

Grassroots Business Fund will manage the facility that will provide concessionary loans to members of the 3 organisations, KNCCI, Kepsa and WomenWorks Networks.The loans will boost the micro enterprises by providing them with working capital that allows them to navigate challenges brought on by the Covid-19 health crisis.The loans to micro enterprises will target businesses country-wide and priority will be given to youth and women-led enterprises and to certain sectors such as agriculture, retail, healthcare.TechnoServe will work with 28,000 micro-retailers, primarily women and young people, through the Micro-enterprises Strengthened for Pandemic Adaptation and Resilience in Kenya (mSPARK) program, providing targeted digital technical assistance and facilitating financial support through financial-technology credit provider 4G Capital.

The emergency repayable business grants will support overhead expenses such as salaries, rent, and utilities, and, in conjunction with the technical assistance provided through the program, will enable micro-retailers to source vital products and digitize their operations.This program, which is being rolled out in Nairobi and surrounding metropolitan counties as well as Mombasa and Kilifi counties, will help to stabilise and strengthen the resilience of micro-retailers who own general shops, salons, restaurants and eateries that are essential to the economies and food security of vulnerable communities.“I have a shop called Network Shop in Kiganjo Thika on the outskirts of Nairobi. When Covid-19 struck I didn’t know what to do and that caused me a lot of panic and stress. I was struggling to keep my business running and I almost closed down due to the financial hardships,” 24-year old business owner, wife and mother of twins, Elizabeth Jeremiah said.”A repayable grant will be a lifesaving opportunity as I will have the funds to stay afloat and not have to close down my shop. Being trained on how to navigate through such a crisis will allow me get out of the crisis better and stronger.”