Rural women entrepreneurs
Photo: World Bank

What can be done for rural women entrepreneurs in Kenya?

We don’t talk about them much but there are more Kenyans in rural areas than in urban areas. Rural women entrepreneurs do infact feed this country; literally. It is thus fair to find what to do for them.

About 70% of Kenyans live in rural areas. This is by far the majority but rural Kenya is only a poster child for poverty. The women entrepreneurs in these regions, mainly involved in agriculture, are the main food producers for this country. Yet in their work they face incredible challenges.

Great, you already recognized that this is no new news. Neither does your Government. Rural women entrepreneurs have been acknowledged since the 1990s; their contribution and the obstacles they face. In all this time little has changed for them; sadly this is not surprising for anyone.


It has always been known that gender inequality is the broad title under which all their challenges are classed. Isn’t it mind-boggling that 60% of entrepreneurs in Kenya are women yet they only have access 10% of credit facilities available?

The problem is that the Government has always favored top-down approaches to solving anything. This would only be good for fighting corruption but, of course, it never applies to it. We always had the excuse of Nairobi’s centralized governance but even devolution hasn’t changed things. We have Government funding for entrepreneurs and tender offers by county governments as moves for business people. The excuse now is that we have to give decentralization more time.


Maybe a bottom-down approach should be chosen. You know, the kind of approach formulated close to the problem. This means working with what is already available- women entrepreneurs in rural Kenya. These women don’t have hubs for entrepreneurs like those in urban areas do which offer massive support in for your business.

This kind of support structure can be recreated through self-help groups and cooperative societies. They already exist but you feel there is not a lot of focus directed to them. It is in this way that rural women entrepreneurs can be linked so they share experiences and ideas.

They also come together to enjoy the benefits of being big in size. It is better to purchase in bulk, they will get more bargaining power and better lending terms. They will also have common facilities that will reduce cost of running their businesses but, at the same time, enjoy greater productivity.