The goal of our project is to grow a women’s business incubator in Bacongo, a district in Brazzaville, Congo (West Africa), by further developing the existing “Maison des Femmes de Bacongo” (Women’s Center). We are working in partnership with a local NGO, UAFM (African Union of Women Manager) In 2013, we opened the "Maison des Femmes de Bacongo" in order to stimulate growth in woman-run businesses and started training sessions a year later, in 2014. (Our blog in French: http://maisondebacongo.org)
The “Maison des Femmes” welcomes women who want to start or develop their businesses. Business incubators are common in developed economies to support start-ups by providing office space, mentorship and a chance to build a network across industries. Implementing the same concept in Brazzaville would likewise allow nascent entrepreneurs to pool resources and increase the chance of each enterprises’ success in a less than favourable economic environment. The location of the ‘’Maison des Femmes’’ in Bacongo is in itself a resource/advantage as Bacongo houses the largest marketplace in Brazzaville and is thus the center of grassroots economic activity. The primary services offered include: - Basic courses to help women start and optimize their businesses - The creation of a safe, shared space dedicated to exchanging business practices - Mentorship and guidance for women by women from within the community.
Our project was born in Brazzaville after we met with UAFM (Union Africaine des Femmes Managers), a NGO created by women with various social backgrounds to improve women's living conditions. UAFM is active in several African countries, including the Congo.
Since the end of the civil war, the Congo political situation has been stabilized, but poverty and unemployment remains pervasive and many people heavily depend on informal economy.
In such a context, the Congolese branch of UAFM tries to organize and create solidarity among women. They aim to implement solutions to help women develop economic activities and create better living conditions for them and their families.
UAFM was part of a think tank on fighting women's poverty in Africa (Groupe de réflexion pour la lutte contre la pauvreté des femmes en Afrique, GRELUPAFA) which led an investigation into women's activities in Brazzaville's markets. This report revealed the lack of financing and the fact that most women have no access to the classic banking and financial system.
This work convinced us and we decided to start working with them.
The investigation which took place at Marché Total in Bakongo by GRELUPAFA and UAFM identified 48 types of goods belonging to 11 broader categories: fish (fresh, smoked, salted or dried), meat , poultry, starchy food, fruits and vegetables, (imported) general food products, office stationery, cookware, clothing, beauty products, wood and coal, and various activities (hairdressing, sewing, pastry cooking).
During the investigation, 1,000 women with micro-enterprise projects were identified.
Women who have development projects
Microcredit is granted to women who have a micro-enterprise and want to invest in it. We provide short-term loans (3-6 months) and are renewable, in line with common practice in microfinance. The team of women from UAFM helps women with little or no business background to formalize their projects, identify their needs, and clarify their management practices.
Women organized in small groups
To ask for a loan, women form groups of 5-7 members who have the same kinds of projects, and choose a group leader.
Microcredit loans amount from 75-300€ (June 2010)