Empowering Women Through Business
At a recent event in London organised by Business Action for Africa, UK Department for International Development and the Institute for Development Studies titled: “Advancing Gender Equality through Business and Partnerships”, we discussed the compelling economic and business case for investing in the economic empowerment of women. We know that improving the economic position of women delivers strong social and economic returns, and is a powerful driver for accelerating progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Coca-Cola Company is one of a growing number of businesses recognising that there is both a strong business and development rationale for supporting women economic empowerment through our value chains.
In September 2010, Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive of the The Coca-Cola Company pledged to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs throughout Coca-Cola's global system by the year 2020 – an initiative we now call 5BY20. With an estimated 5.9m (36%) women-owned/operated businesses in our value chain globally, 5BY20 represents a significant opportunity to make a difference at scale.
Our already proven micro distribution center (MDC) model, which has established thousands of small independently-owned low-cost distribution businesses in our value chain to serve urban and peri-urban retail markets, has provided a strong foundation to build on.
We are now identifying the best ways to connect women entrepreneurs with the resources and skills they need to succeed. In the case of Coca-Cola, this means providing women entrepreneurs with access to retail opportunities, and to retail assets, access to finance, access to business skills training and mentoring and networks.
Across the Eurasia and Africa region, we are piloting various projects under the 5BY20 umbrella, providing access to retail assets in Nigeria and South Africa, training new or existing women entrepreneurs in business practices and financial management in Turkey, and Egypt, and teaching small scale farmers how to maximize their crop yield in Kenya and Uganda.
Access to finance is a critical barrier for women entrepreneurs, so we are looking at ways to provide them with access to microloans, savings accounts and small business insurance, supported by ongoing financial records management training. We are also exploring ways to harness technology to improve business efficiency through electronic money transfer, and to create new revenue streams via technology that allows retailers to sell airtime, administer lottery tickets, and sell function as a phone booth. As well we are piloting other innovations like solar panels to power coolers and small retail outlets, reducing energy consumption and saving the retailers costs.
We recognise that we cannot do this alone. Partnerships are critical to our ability to implement the best solutions and to drive scale. We are working with a wider range of organisations including NGOs, governments and other businesses to help us with technical assistance, training and financial services provision.
It is still early days but we are seeing encouraging results as our value chain grows stronger and the women we support are able to improve their incomes, save and invest in their businesses, create jobs and contribute to more prosperous and stable communities.