A helping hand for women

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00

When Iman Youssry, a 27-year-old Egyptian furniture designer, needs help finishing a customer’s order, she often calls her friends. And they call their friends. Anyone who can spare the time turns up to help get the work done.

Often it is not enough and deliveries are late, a problem Ms Youssry finds deeply embarrassing. Her marketing efforts are similarly rudimentary. She has no real cash management system and no website to display her work, which includes tables, small wooden crafts, candle holders, coasters and other items.

“I just have so many problems and challenges trying to run my business,” said Ms Youssry, a softly spoken fine arts graduate of Helwan University in Cairo.

To upgrade her management and marketing skills, Ms Youssry will be the first participant in 10,000 Women, a major philanthropic effort announced last week by Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment bank.

Goldman committed an initial $100m to the programme, among the bank’s largest ever single grants. The money will help fund mostly short-term, pragmatic certificate programmes designed at upgrading business skills of 10,000 women over five years in emerging and developing countries.

Ms Youssry, for instance, will attend a five-week course at American University in Cairo to improve her basic business skills.

According to Maha ElShinnawy, professor at the American University in Cairo, Ms Youssry is typical of many women the programme will aim to help. “She already has a business. She just needs that extra push.”

The 10,000 Women effort, two years in the planning, will initially involve more than a dozen universities and graduate schools such as Harvard Business School and Columbia Business School in the US and the UK’s Judge Business School at Cambridge University and in developing countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Rwanda.

The money provided by Goldman will cover the certificate programmes as well as training for faculty. Goldman employees are also to serve as mentors for women involved in the programme, which will also include a limited number of scholarships for full-time undergraduate and graduate degrees. A companion effort to aid underprivileged women in the US is to be announced in the coming months.

The genesis for the effort, according to Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman chief executive, was research conducted by the bank’s employees indicating that boosting business education of women in developing countries could have a powerful multiplier effect on overall health levels and economic growth rates.

The research showed that closing the gender gap in employment in key emerging markets could lift per capita income 10-14 per cent above baseline forecasts by 2020.

It also indicated that higher levels of female education could have raised gross domestic product growth rates in emerging markets by 0.2 per cent over the past 10 years.

Mr Blankfein said the effort would be in Goldman’s long-term economic interest because it would help boost global GDP and help the bank’s image in countries such as Egypt where it hopes to do an increasing amount of business.

The programme aims to help women in the developing world to turn small businesses that often operate off the books into growing enterprises that create jobs and pay taxes that can in turn boost social services.

Jeanne Mujawamariya, minister of education in Rwanda, said more than half the children in her nation’s primary schools are women but too few of them develop skills beyond primary school.

“When you educate a woman you educate her children as well. You educate her whole family,” said Ms Mujawamariya.

The 10,000 Women effort will also provide grants for groups such as Camfed, which pays for girls in sub-Saharan Africa to attend secondary school.

Goldman added Camfed to the programme after seeing the group’s work highlighted in the Financial Times. Camfed, which is to receive an initial $2m under the programme, has been the focus of the FT’s seasonal appeal.

Ann Cotton, Camfed’s chief executive, said 10,000 Women would aid efforts to help 560 women in Zambia who leave school with limited employment prospects.

Mr Blankfein said that in addition to helping Goldman’s business prospects, the effort would help him retain staff. “The biggest places we lose people to are philanthropy and government. I have to stay ahead on these things.”

Africa’s schools seek collaboration

Following forays into China and India, Africa has become the new playground for both US and European business schools, writes Della Bradshaw. For Europeans, the target is to attract African students on to their MBA programmes in order to extend the cultural diversity for which establishments such as the London Business School and Insead are famous. For American schools, the target is to find out what makes African business tick so they can teach their MBA students back home.

All of which is treated largely with bemusement by the professors of Africa’s indigenous schools. Though small in number, they are clear about what they would like to see: money spent to help develop their institutions.

“Through collaboration with top European and US business schools we can build top-class business education [in Africa],” says Josiah Cobbah, associate dean of the business school at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, Accra.

In that light, the Goldman Sachs funds will be money well spent. More than half the projects will involve collaboration between institutions in Africa and those in the US and Europe and at least 2,500 African women will receive management training as a result, be it high school students, undergraduates or entrepreneurs. Part of the pot will also be used to help train African academics and develop the curriculum.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.