An Overview of Women Enterprise Fund in Kenya

Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) is a Semi-Autonomous Government Agency in the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs established in August 2007 to provide accessible and affordable credit to support women start and/or expand business for wealth and employment creation (WEF, 2007). The role of entrepreneurship and an entrepreneurial culture in economic and social development has often been overlooked. Over the years, however, it has become increasingly apparent that entrepreneurship indeed contributes to economic development. Nevertheless, the significant numbers of enterprises are owned by men (International Labour Organization (ILO), 2006). In the past it was not common to see women-owned businesses worldwide especially in developing countries. The idea and practice of women entrepreneurship is a recent phenomenon. The Women Enterprise Fund was therefore set up by the Kenyan government to benefit women aged above 18 years, meaning any woman can apply, whether she is part of a group or as an individual (Karuoya, 2009). In its smallest manifestation, it enhances livelihoods within the family while on larger and deeper levels, national wealth accrues. The government of Kenya has been trying to reduce the gender imbalance by providing fiscal support to women to raise their earnings and reduce the gap in estimated earned incomes between men and women, a strategy that the government is implementing under the Vision 2030.

This article provides a synopsis of the Women Enterprise Fund agency covering the following areas: Products and Services, Eligibility and Requirements, Accomplishments and Challenges Encountered.

Products and Services

The Women Enterprise Fund agency offers a range of products and services to help empower women in the society and improve their income. WEF offers loans of different kinds to the women entrepreneurs with the Tuinuke Loan being the most common type.

Tuinuke loan: This is a loan product at the constituency level or otherwise known as Constituency Women Enterprise Scheme (CWES), given out through registered women groups interested in expanding or starting new businesses (WEF, 2016). This loan is interest-free, with only 5% administrative fee with a grace period of 1 month. The loan amounts given, graduation principle and the repayment period are given to the loanees. The loan application forms are available for free from WEF’s Regional Offices based at all provincial headquarters, the Main Head Quarters and online at the Fund’s website.

LPO Financing: Local Purchase Order Financing (LPO Financing) is another loan product offered by WEF to serve women by increasing their capacity to respond and adequately service tenders thus meeting supply requirements. The loan is available to individual women owning enterprises or women owned companies (WEF, 2016).

Bid Bond Financing/Tender Security: This is a loan product initiated by WEF to aid women in Kenya in achieving requirements of the tendering process. The product is available to individual women who may own enterprises or women owned companies issued at WEF head office. The bid bonds are currently offered to women within Nairobi County and its outskirts.

Capacity Building: This is another product offered by the Fund. WEF achieves capacity building of women entrepreneurs through the volunteerism concept. The volunteers are based at the constituency level and their roles include recruiting women, training them and monitoring their projects and loan repayments. The training curriculum covers various areas including: Business skills, Market Access, Basic ICT skills. It is incumbent upon the volunteers to conduct the trainings of women in their group set ups at constituency level. This enables the Fund to achieve capacity building at a high level.

Market support and Linkages

Market support is critical for the growth and general success of women owned enterprises in Kenya. Many businesses with immense potential have failed due to inability to access the right markets for their products and services.

Two of the Fund’s main functions to support women owned enterprises are as follows: Facilitating and supporting small women owned enterprises to develop linkages with large established enterprises/institutions for business and mentorship and to facilitate the marketing of products and services of women owned enterprises in domestic, regional and international markets. To achieve this, WEF has employed the following strategies:

  1. Organizing and/or participating in organized marketing events such as trade fairs, exhibitions, conventions/conferences and road shows. These marketing events are mainly within Kenya. They offer the women entrepreneurs with an opportunity to network, showcase and market their products.
  2. Facilitating market linkages between small women owned enterprises with large established private enterprises or government institutions for business and mentorship. Under these partnerships, the women entrepreneurs are facilitated to learn as well as trade with the established enterprise or institution. The linkages take such forms as Sub contracting, outsourcing, sale to government, franchising and business mentorship/business development trainings.

Eligibility and Requirements

Constituency Women Enterprise Scheme (CWES): For one to be eligible for this loan product, the following are the requirements:

  • Must be a registered self-help group of 10 members and above comprising 100% women or 70 % women and 30% men.
  • All leadership positions and account signatories must be held by women.
  • Must have an account in a Bank/SACCO FOSA/Post Bank/Deposit Taking Micro-finance (DTM) and must have been in existence for at least 3 months.
  • Groups must be trained in business management skills by the WEF officers as a prerequisite for the loan application

Local Purchase Order Financing (LPO Financing): To qualify for the LPO financing WEF product, the following requirements have to be met:

  • Company must be registered with the relevant government body.
  • For companies, groups and partnerships membership composition must be at least 70% women and 30% men (or 100% women).
  • A valid Local Purchase Order/Local Service Order duly signed and stamped by the procuring entity or public institutions (listed in the public procurement and disposal act).
  • The maximum amount available for this loan is Kshs. 2 Million per individual borrowing.
  • Duly signed Letter of Undertaking and acceptable collateral as per Fund’s Credit Policy. Acceptable collateral are bank guarantee, shares or motor vehicle.
  • Customer account details.
  • A one-off administration fee of 5% of the loan amount.
  • Tenure of 90 days.
  • Certified copy of the letter by the supplier (loanee) to the procuring entity requesting payment through Women Enterprise Fund.
  • Amount financed is 60% of the LPO amount.

Bid Bond Financing eligibility requirements:

  • Filling of bid bond application form
  • Payment of the commission (original bank slip required)
  • Borrower to sign indemnity terms and conditions (as will be in the application form)
  • Issuance of bid/tender security.

Terms and conditions for the bid bonds

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This provision targets the following public procuring entities as defined in the public procurement and disposal act: Government ministries, SAGAs, public schools, county governments, the judiciary, national assembly and public hospitals.


The Women Enterprise Fund has been able to impact the lives of many Kenyans and the economy positively since its initiation. There are many success stories with relation to the fund; however, this article covers a few of WEF’s greatest achievements:

Tushibe Mtama Woman Group: This group is located in Nakuru, Rongai constituency. They took the first loan of Kshs.50, 000 in 2009 which they used to buy an oven and established their business of baking cookies, buns and cakes from sweet potatoes flour and tubers. Note they have sweet potatoes plantation in their homes thus do not incur any cost on purchasing them. With the second loan of Kshs.100, 000, they multiplied vines plantation as the demand and market for their products had expanded. The third loan of Kshs.200, 000 was used to open a shop in Menengai shopping Centre just within Rongai area. They then secured a loan of Kshs.500, 000 which was well put in running and maintaining the business. The group has managed to register with KEBS, develop product labels and packaging and the group members’ livelihoods improved and they were able to support their families.

Twihehinya Widows Group: It was founded by the widowed women in the year 2007 having a total membership of 15 women. The members came together and decided to form a group since they had common challenges in life. They believed that supporting one another through merry go rounds and just being there for each other was a good idea to make them grow and overcome some of the challenges they were undergoing as widows. The group joined Women Enterprise Fund in the year 2009 and was given a first loan of 50,000. This money was divided amongst 10 members who were present and active by then. They bought a sheep in each homestead. They applied for subsequent loans of 100,000/- then 200,000/- and finally 350,000. Each member had a good number of cattle from which they sell milk to the dairy near them and were also doing maize plantation on a large scale basis. The loan has also helped them in clearing school fees for their children and grandchildren.

Due to its large impact on the lives of such women groups the Women Enterprise Fund as an agency has received numerous recognition and praise for the positive impacts made. As a result, WEF has received awards for its efforts. These include:

  • Millennium Development Goals Award (MDG) for contribution in promoting Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in 2011. The Chief Executive/Director of the Fund received the award during the Millennium Development Goals Awards ceremony held at Panafric Hotel on 21st October, 2011.
  • ICT Association of Kenya (ICTAK) Award 2014 for best use of ICT (State Corporation Category). The Fund has been at the forefront of employing technology to serve Kenyans efficiently as is evident in the use of MPesa for loan repayments, a robust internal system and techno-savvy modes of communication (WEF, 2014).
  • Month of the Woman Entrepreneur (MOWE) Gala Dinner Awards. The International Labour Organization (ILO- WEDGE) recognized the Fund’s beneficiaries and financial intermediary partners at the MOWE gala dinner awards which was one of the events to mark the Month of the Woman Entrepreneur.

Challenges Encountered

Despite the many accomplishments WEF has realized, inevitably the agency still faces many challenges in implementing their agenda in the country. The challenges are at two levels (Ijaza, Mwangi., Ng’etich., 2014). The first level is the challenges faced by the borrower and the second level is the challenges faced by the lender. The four major challenges facing the borrower are: inadequate capital, high competition, other responsibilities and insecurity.

Inadequate capital is the biggest challenge faced by the women borrowing the loan (Ijaza, Mwangi., Ng’etich., 2014). A number of women applying for the loan products claimed that the microcredit they received was not enough for the business venture they would have wanted to undertake, which resulted in changing the initial investment plan for other options that were totally new. More so a number of women groups claimed that the grace period given before they start paying the loans was not adequate for agribusiness considering the time required for the crop to mature before they can be able to generate any revenue and pay back the loan (Maina, 2016).

High competition is another challenge facing women borrowers. A number of women loanees were engaged in similar businesses with services or products which were not differentiated. This is attributed to lack of wide variety of economic activities for women to choose from. Lack of differentiation meant that switching of costs for customers was minimal, therefore increasing competition among the enterprises. This led to most Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) especially small sellers and producers tend to congregate in dense markets and overcrowded cities (Ijaza, Mwangi, Ng’etich, 2014).

Women entrepreneurs were faced with other demanding responsibilities therefore they lack adequate time to tend to their businesses. The responsibility of providing for the extended family and relatives is a challenge for many women (Ijaza, Mwangi, Ng’etich, 2014). Most enterprise financial resources are not usually isolated from personal finances and hence these family obligations are met from resources earned from the business. Their demands tend to drain their savings and income made by the business.

Insecurity is one of the main challenges faced by women in running their small businesses (SMEs). Most of the structures used as business premises were mostly semi-permanent mud walled structures and others iron sheet walls which are insecure.

The second level of challenges is those faced by the lender. The challenges they encounter include:

Delay of disbursement of Funds by the Ministry/Cabinet sometimes the ministry of finance delayed in disbursing the money to the constituencies. At the fund level the fund managers said they had to wait for other women making repayments so as to give the money to other women since it is a revolving loan fund. When women fail to pay on time this is extended to other women who in turn have to wait. These delays caused long waiting periods among women borrowers (Ijaza, Mwangi, Ng’etich, 2014).

Illiteracy among the women borrowers: A sizeable proportion of women entrepreneurs lacked basic literacy which incapacitated them in terms of proper record keeping. The loan application process was difficult for women without any education to keep financial records. They also found transacting businesses at the bank difficult. In most cases they would fill in their names in the deposit slips instead of filling in the name of the group.

WEF faces the challenge of inadequate field personnel. The WEF have officers at their regional offices that covered large areas spanning several constituencies. One field officer was in charge of a constituency while social development assistants were in charge of divisions (one for every division). The field officers and social development assistants were volunteers and hence they often left when they got better jobs. This affects the continuity of work as a new officer will take some time to know his/her clients.


Overall, WEF has assisted the women groups in the country to improve performance of their businesses, however, there were some areas that WEF still needed to work on to make better impact on the groups’ business performance. There is need for WEF through field officers and social development assistants to assist women to invest their microcredit in productive activities. This will make repayment easier and help women avoid default. Group wrangles brought about by misunderstandings within the group are a challenge to women entrepreneurs and therefore, WEF should consider restructuring CWES loan to allow women to access individual loans. This will give the borrowers the freedom to invest in business activities of their own choice. Even so, the Women Enterprise Fund has been a great contributor to growing the country’s economy and enhancing gender equality. WEF has acted as a pacemaker for other new credit schemes within the country especially the private sector, leading to eradication of poverty.


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