Pandemic Innovations; new app designed to help women in business navigate the COVID-19 pandemic

The Ethiopia Women Entrepreneurship Development Project (WEDP), which supports more than 38,000 women-owned and growth-oriented micro and small enterprises by providing training and access to loans, is currently in the process of developing an app to help women navigate business realities created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since WEDP was started in 2012, businesses that participate in its programs have increased their incomes by 67% and their labor forces by 58%. WEDP employs close to 90,000 workers, 61% of whom are female. To boost WEDP and protect any potential jobs at risk, teams from the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab, the ITS Technology and Innovation Lab (ITSTI), and the Competitiveness & Innovation Global Practice have formed a partnership.

The partnership has led to the pursuit of a mobile app that could tap into Point of Sale (POS) data while generating business insights and maintaining transactional records.

ITSTI came up with a lab prototype for the application which adopts concepts industry insiders refer to as ‘enterprise software.’ You can run the app on any smartphone and link it to Wi-Fi or cash registers. Ethiopian companies earning more than US$3000 are mandated to use cash registers which makes the technology one that can be adapted with ease.

When connected, the app will extract transactional data a cash register to generate insights on sales patterns, provide targeted recommendations, remotely engage contacts and business networks, and enable real-time price comparisons. The app will also provide analytics on customer footfall and high-value products.

The group now plans to team with the government’s Small and Medium Enterprises agency and roll-out the prototype in practical user-test sessions. Partnerships with Ethiopian banks and microfinance institutions are in the works to create a digital transnational record that can be leveraged as an alternative credit score rating for women-owned firms.

Tech in Africa, World Bank

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