We featured a conversation with three young women entrepreneurs from Africa and Asia who shared their journey while navigating the fallout of COVID-19. We also organized a discussion with an expert panel of gender-focused chief executives of philanthropic organizations that work to advance financial and social inclusion for low- and moderate-income populations. Panelists discussed the impact, challenges, opportunities, and way forward in these testing times.

The key themes for discussion were:

  1. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs and their coping strategies
  2. Lessons learned during the pandemic to inform strategies and policies to “build back better”
  3. Deliberate on ideas that would enable all segments of women entrepreneurs to operate in the new normal and build resilience to such crises
  4. The role of key stakeholders, such as governments, donors, and financial service providers, in aiding a post-COVID recovery.

1:40 03:27  Doreen Njau, Communications Manager, Anglophone Africa introduces the three young women entrepreneurs from Africa and Asia

04:05 15:64 Doreen speaks to the three young women entrepreneurs who share the challenges they faced as entrepreneurs while navigating the pandemic, the opportunities they see, their needs, and their aspirations

04:13 07:10– Rahab Wangari, Director and Co-founder at Hepta Analytics Limited talks about her background and her entrepreneurship through COVID-19.

07:19 10:52– Semhal Guesh- Founder & CEO of Kabana Leather gives her experience while navigating her enterprise through COVID-19.

11:19 15:64 – Nasima Aktar Nisha- Founder and President of Women and e-Commerce (WE) contributes to this conversation and gives an example of how some female microentrepreneurs in Bangladesh have pivoted and built resilience during the pandemic.

17:14 25:13 – Sonal Jaitly, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Lead, MSC gives the context of the discussion and introduces the panelists.

25:26 25:56 Sonal Jaitly introduces the first topic on the impact, barriers, and if we are yet to understand the depth of the impact.

26:24 28:23–  Evelyn Stark, Senior Advisor, Consultant, Partner in Financial Health, responds to Question 1: Data shows that the pandemic has had an impact on all MSMEs. What key socio-economic issues have made women entrepreneurs more vulnerable when it comes to their financial health and expansion of businesses?

29:10 35:22 – Jamie Zimmerman, Gender Lead, Financial Services for the Poor, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, responds to Question 2: What do you think have been the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs?

37:03 44:44– Joyce Muchena, Gender Lead at Mastercard Foundation responds to Question 3: Several countries are dealing with not just the first but also the second and third waves of the pandemic now. We have a large amount of data on the impact of the first wave—what additional work needs to be done to deepen our understanding of the impact of later waves of the pandemic?

46:37 52:36 Nicholas Collof, Executive Director at Argidius Foundation responds to Question 4: In your experience what key barriers do women enterprises face in their path to recovery?

53:3554:00 Sonal Jaitly introduces the second topic on key opportunities to build back better

54:251:01:10 Evelyn Stark responds to Question 1: In your view, what key opportunities have emerged from this pandemic to further the financial health of wMSEs? What roles should the public and private sectors play?

1:02:511:11:34 Joyce Muchena, responds to Question 2: Even before the pandemic, financial markets did not work well for women entrepreneurs—especially as most of them remain concentrated in the informal sector. What are the opportunities for financial markets to better serve women entrepreneurs, especially in the informal segment?

1:12:17 1:18:15 – Jamie Zimmerman responds to Question 3: How can Digital Financial Services play an important role in helping women entrepreneurs recover from the impact of this crisis?

1:19:481:24:34 – Nicholas Collof responds to Question 4: What are some of the opportunities to improve the effectiveness, reach, and quality of business development services for women entrepreneurs?

 1:25:58 – 1:34:54 – The panelists respond to a round of questions from the audience

Question 1) How do we build digital capacity that incorporates the community building and relational benefits of face-to-face encounters?

Question 2) Thank you for raising “segmentation,” and the need for “’integrating”’ with other sectors (for example, business support), as well as gender issues at the household and community level.

Can you highlight for example, good practices, especially on “gender-transformative” interventions…?

Question 3) What are the donors and funders doing to help the solution providers (tech providers) to move from Idea to PoC as soon as possible so that the entrepreneurs can benefit from this and reach their customers from their comfort of home?

1:38:211:43:54 Graham Wright, Group Managing Director, MSC presents the concluding remarks.

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