About the Driven Women Accelerator
The Driven Women Accelerator is an eight month innovation and investing ecosystem which seeks to connect high potential, growth oriented, and innovative starts ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) companies led and/or owned by women from across the African continent to investors and essential resources. The accelerator uses a partnership based, high touch, and scale focused approach designed to make companies finance ready, competitive, and positioned to scale into regional and Pan African companies. Over the course of the next 15-20 years, the platform seeks to build and scale 1000 women led companies.
The program is made of a two week Scale Lab, a two week Field Immersion Lab, a six month membership based support services program called Driven Women Plus, and a one week African women focused investment expo called Driven Women X. The Scale Lab has three program components namely, the Knowledge Hubs, Sector Labs, and a Networks component. The Driven Women Plus program is made up of a business advisory, investment facilitation, corporate innovation and supplier partnerships, and Driven Women Bank program component.
The first edition of the Driven Women Accelerator will commence in October 2021 with a focus on Southern African and will attract companies from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzanian, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The accelerator. The other components of the program will be implemented in 2022.
Build 1000 innovative and growth oriented African women led companies with revenues of $3million and above over the next 15-20 years.
The Driven Women accelerator will achieve this by connecting companies to investors and advisors, facilitating follow on financing, creating opportunities to access markets, and mobilizing critical technical assistance resources through innovative, local, regional, and global partnerships.
Africa’s leading growth, innovation, and investment platform for innovative African women led companies
The Driven Women Accelerator seeks to become the foremost platform which will build the next generation of innovative regional and pan African women led companies.
How the program works
The program selects 50-100 women led companies to participate in the two week Scale Lab and the six month Driven Women Plus Program. The Scale Lab culminates in the Demo Studio sessions where the companies pitch to investors. The two week program is made up of the Knowledge Hubs, the sector labs, and a section dedicated to networks. The Knowledge Hub includes master classes, clinics, and project labs. The sector labs are made up of the manufacturing (including high tech manufacturing), food and agribusiness (including agro processing), technology (focused on fintech), and the creative industries lab (focused on fashion value chains). The networks component of the program includes boot camps, a mini tradeshow, a hosted buyer program, a Driven Women Banking Program, and the creative exchange women focused art fair.
At the close of the Scale Lab, participants and program partners sign up for membership in the six month Drive Women Plus Program. They also enroll in the Field Immersion Lab which seeks to immerse the participants and partners in a field experience where they visit research centers, companies in their sectors, and demonstration projects to benchmark their companies with global best practices. After the Field Immersion Lab companies and partners commence activities in the Driven Women Plus Program which is made up of initiatives and projects implemented over a six month period. The Driven Women Plus Program has the following support streams: business advisory services, investment facilitation, corporate innovations and supplier Development, R&D and technology, and The Driven Women Bank Program. The program will provide opportunities for companies coming out of the accelerator to build their company capabilities for growth and competitiveness through targeted company specific business advisory services which support companies to develop a growth plan.
Why The Driven Women Accelerator
Accelerating investments in African women businesses has the potential to deliver economic transformation. In many African economies, women businesses account for the majority of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). However, in spite of their economic potential, the contribution of women is inhibited by several systemic constraints which result in a $42 billion financing gap for women entrepreneurs across the continent. Meanwhile, African women make up 54% of the total population in agriculture, are responsible for about 75% of the agricultural labor force and produce 60 to 80% of the continent’s food, while their productivity is 30% lower than men’s owing to a lack of critical resources. Many women business owners lack essential business and managerial skills, are too small to qualify for bank lending, lack access to markets, or have challenges accessing technical support. In addition, only 15% of agricultural land owners in Sub-Saharan Africa are women. Similarly only 16-20 % women in Sub-Saharan Africa are able to access long-term financing from formal financial institutions.
To meet this potential and address the identified systemic challenges, Africa needs to build a pipeline of growth oriented women led businesses. The Zambian Edition of the Driven Women Accelerator seeks to contribute to this objective by developing a pipeline of growth oriented women led companies with the potential to scale into regional and pan African companies. The accelerator will work with investors, development partners, development finance institutions, and banks to mobilize capital and financing for women led businesses. The accelerator will also work with consulting firms, corporates, academic institutions, and research and development (R&D) organizations to mobilize technical assistance, business advisory services, and R&D and technology support services.