Acting Administrator John Barsa’s Remarks at W-GDP Roundtable and Announcement in Kenya

Speeches Shim

Monday, October 5, 2020

Thank you, Ambassador McCarter, for opening our event today. It’s a pleasure to speak with all of you.

As many of us have expressed, women’s economic empowerment is a top priority for the Trump Administration and USAID. In fact, the U.S. National Security Strategy directly ties women’s economic empowerment globally to American peace and prosperity—particularly with the establishment of the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, or W-GDP.

USAID manages the W-GDP Fund, investing in innovative programs that advance women’s economic empowerment. These efforts focus on three core pillars: women prospering in the workforce, women succeeding as entrepreneurs, and women enabled in the economy.

W-GDP’s goal is to improve the lives of 50 million women around the world by 2025. In our first year alone, we have already reached 12 million women.

Kenyan women can prosper in the workplace and succeed as entrepreneurs when we break down the legal and social barriers to full participation in the economy.

W-GDP is uniquely placed to support these efforts. Building on our progress to date, I am pleased to highlight three recently announced W-GDP programs in Kenya. These new programs will increase access to finance for women entrepreneurs, connect women to the internet, and provide targeted training for women running their own businesses.

The W-GDP Investing in Kenyan Women activity is a $3 million investment, approximately 300 million Kenyan shillings, that will take a dual approach to increase access to finance. On one hand, we will train women entrepreneurs who may lack the collateral needed to access finance, or who have new or difficult-to-finance businesses. On the other hand, we will collaborate with local financial institutions to develop new credit products that address persistent gender gaps in financial services. Through this program, the W-GDP Fund will catalyze $30 million, or 3 billion Kenyan shillings, in commercial investment for women entrepreneurs.

The second and third programs represent powerful partnerships with American companies committed to advancing W-GDP’s goals. We are investing $5 million in the W-GDP Microsoft Women's Digital Inclusion Partnership, which will catalyze a $10 million investment from Microsoft. This global effort will support Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, which will substantially increase the number of women with internet coverage, by investing in local ICT companies serving rural areas in five countries, including Kenya.

Lastly, we are proud to be setting out on a new partnership with the United Parcel Service to help Kenyan women launch, fund, and scale their own businesses. Our $1.4 million investment in the W-GDP Partnership to Train Kenyan Women Entrepreneurs activity will identify the knowledge gaps that most impact women entrepreneurs in Kenya, and provide one-on-one support to help them access growth opportunities—such as through e-commerce.

W-GDP has been investing in Kenya since its beginning. In addition to these new activities, USAID continues to support a variety of efforts that advance women’s economic empowerment. For example, we are increasing job opportunities and gender equality in energy and water utility companies, including KenGen and Kenya Power. We are also supporting AFCHIX, an organization that enables rural women to run internet service providers or work as network engineers in their own communities.

I am confident that these new and ongoing W-GDP investments will create a brighter and more prosperous Kenya. When women are economically empowered, they re-invest in themselves, their families and communities. These investments grow and multiply to spur economic growth and build stability.

USAID will work hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs, employers, financial institutions, and small businesses to ensure that every dollar of investment leads to a brighter future for these promising women entrepreneurs and business owners. Thank you all for joining us today, and we look forward to your questions.