Women lead approximately one-third of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets, but remain disproportionately underserved and often face less favorable terms for financing, inhibiting their ability to grow. More than 40 percent of women-owned SMEs cite lack of access to finance as a major barrier to growth.
In the agriculture sector, which investors consider particularly risky, womenowned SMEs earn 25 percent less in sales and own 35 percent fewer assets than men-owned SMEs, including financial assets. Women often have less access to collateral and training, preventing them from obtaining the financial and technical support required to expand their businesses.
However, given the support they need, women entreprenuers can play a significant role in contributing to economic development. With the tools to expand their businesses, women can contribute to job creation and economic growth and boost gender equality across society. Investing in services to support the growth of women-owned businesses is essential to economic growth in any market.
This prize will help woman-led enterprises access capital to scale improved agricultural products and services in smallholder markets. The selected finalists will receive investment readiness consulting services and investor matchmaking support.
This RFA will identify woman-owned or women-operated, for-profit businesses that match the evaluation criteria set forth in Section IV. Up to two companies will be awarded a package of technical assistance valued at $50,000.
The technical assistance package will include:
• An assessment of investment readiness, including a review of the enterprise’s corporate systems and a summary of key challenges and overall readiness for external investment
• Co-development of a five-year business strategy and financial projections, preparation of an investor overview document and outreach materials including a pitch deck, a landscape review of potential investors, and initial introductions to principals of the funds.
Application review will take place in April 2018. Shortlisted finalists will be notified of application status and next steps in May 2018. Selected finalists will undergo additional due diligence between May and June 2018. Notification of due diligence is not a guarantee of continuing service.
If selected, prize awardees will receive investor readiness and matchmaking services between June and July 2018 (subject to change).
Eligibility Applicants must be a woman-owned or operated (i.e. women in leadership positions including founder, CEO, president, or managing director) commercial enterprise that is selling products or services in smallholder agricultural or livestock markets.
Companies must be headquartered in a subSaharan African country where USAID currently operates (see country list here). Companies should have viable business models and incorporate and ultimately benefit smallholder farmers in at least one the following areas:
1. Increased access to agricultural inputs (e.g. seeds, fertilizer, crop protection products, equipment), technology (e.g. information and communication technology, cold chain logistics, mechanization, irrigation), financial and/or risk management services, and/or better agricultural practices.
2. Expansion of market access through improved services by offtakers or processors. Applicants must demonstrate that the company is in a position to take on external investment and sustainably scale significant development impacts for smallholder farmers, such as productivity increases, increased income, reduction in postharvest losses, and/or expanded market access.
Applications must be received by April 25, 2018 at 18:00 Eastern Daylight Time. Applications will not be considered if delivered in hard copy form. Applications will not be considered if incomplete or received after the deadline. Review of applications will take place in April 2018. Shortlisted candidates will be notified of next steps in May 2018.