The Covid-19 pandemic created a strong demand for companies worldwide - micro, small and medium-sized companies-. The MSMEs stay the main engine of economic development, innovation, and employment but work with lower operating margins. Opportunities destined for women entrepreneurs are most inferior to the ones for men.
94% of companies constating fewer sales than a year ago
In Ethiopia, an answer has been proposed through the Women entrepreneurship development project (WEDP) that supports 38 000 micro and small companies owned by women and focused on growth by offering them training and access to loans. Since the launch of WEDP in 2012, companies participating in the program increase their incomes by 67% and their hiring by 58%. WEDP employed near 90 000 workers, of which 61% are women.
Nevertheless, most of the companies of WEDP are companies where contact with consumers is essential, like grocery, clothing shops, coffee, restaurant, beauty parlors. While the pandemic was advancing, the demand fell spectacularly, 94% of companies constating fewer sales than a year ago. To help them protect employments, a team comprised of Africa Gender Innovation Lab of the World Bank, the Finance, Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice, and the ITS Technology and Innovation Lab (ITSTI) reunited to define digital solutions to help women entrepreneurs during the crisis.
From this collaboration is born an innovative idea: a mobile application exploiting companies' selling point data and generates commercial information, collects transactions, to help companies to improve their operations, maximize their profits and access to emergency loans.
Focused recommendations to monitor and optimize sales
The result is "a company software." In other words, an application that uses emerging technologies to realize commercial analysis that the seller can use to optimize its sales and operations while adapting them to support small companies owned by women in the retail industry in Ethiopia. The application is conceived to be used on any smartphone and connects with Wifi or by linking a cable to the entrepreneurs' cash register. Ethiopian companies earning more than 100 000 ETB (3000 USD) per year have to use a cash register, as this toll is adaptable. Once connected, the application extracts transaction data to generate information about the sale model, client frequency, and high-value products. The application then gives some targeted recommendations such as "increase banana's stock by 30% in June" to help entrepreneurs to monitor and optimize their sales and incomes, the World Bank explains.
The app also gives companies the possibility to interact with their clients and their company's network, allowing price comparison in real-time. It also integrates exchanges elements, peer-to-peer learning, and access to financial services.