Azna Fall Ndiaye is the Senegal country representative of New Faces New Voices (NFNV), a network of African women entrepreneurs under the Graca Machel Trust aimed at bridging funding gap for women-owned businesses in Africa
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The NFNV Senegal Chapter was established sometimes around 2011, how has the journey been so far?
We have been doing a lot; we are working with 4 big networks. The biggest network has around four thousand members; and we have another partner that has three thousand members. Also, we have the young entrepreneurs which are represented by a separate network of women entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector with around six hundred members.
So, what we are doing as NFNV is to bring all these women together and build their capacities to enable them have access to finance. The first phase of the project was to find strategic partners that will support the capacity building program. We have done training programs for women on how to manage business enterprises, build marketing tools, and have access to regional markets.
Also, whenever we have the opportunity, we try to bring them together. For example, the African women workshops organized by NFNV in Nigeria, Zambia, South Africa and the last time in Maputo (Mozambique). This serves as a platform that brings African women entrepreneurs together to network and showcase their businesses and products; it also allows them the opportunity to access funders.
Furthermore, we are conducting studies on financial inclusion for women with some universities and commercial banks in Senegal but also in Cameroon and DRC. It is a very big study because we don’t have primary data, so this study will allow us to have a primary data on financial inclusion for women in Africa – mainly in Francophone West Africa. We don’t have data and we are facing some big challenges in accessing data on the issue, I hope we will have this study in the next 4-5 months.
How can you describe your journey so far, in terms of the impacts of the NFNV Senegal chapter on women in the past 6- 7 years?
A lot! The first is capacity building. Women entrepreneurs did not have the relevant information in terms of access to finance before but now we are organizing them as a network. Generally, they know what they want but they can`t put it on the paper, so they need expert advice to guide them on how to design projects and create business plans. The capacity building workshops enable us to bring them together and build their capacities to allow them get strategic partners.
What have been the major challenges in your work so far?
The major challenge is resources – financial resources. As I said earlier, we are working on volunteer basis, trying to build strategic partnerships but it is not sustainable. We need to have sustainable resources to improve our work. Myself I use to be the head of program of the supporting enterprises in Senegal for 10 years, and during this time I built networks and relationships with financial institutions. So, when we call them to support women around financial inclusion, they will do it.
And then going forward, what are your plans for the NFNV Senegal Chapter?
Our plan is to have small business industries, and for this we are trying to work with the Senegalese government. They have projects on gender and women empowerment, so we are trying to see how we can collaborate with them to have spaces for women to own small business enterprises. We want to empower them infrastructure and equipment to move their businesses forward.