The study – jointly designed and implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank – sheds light on what works, how and why to improve women’s economic empowerment and enterprise development through training in Kenya.
Get-Ahead is the ILO’s Gender and Entrepreneurship Together training programme, which enhances opportunities for female entrepreneurs through knowledge and skills development in business and management. The programme brings a unique gender perspective and interactive approach to expose women, primarily from low-income settings, to business and working environments, the development of business ideas, product design and management practices. Gender equality and household-business roles were explored, with the aim of empowering women to start, continue and expand their small businesses.
The intervention assessed was implemented to facilitate business growth. It targeted women with small businesses in rural markets, with an offer of a five-day training course. Delivery followed ILO’s implementation manuals and relied on local training providers. A year after training, some of the women who had received Get-Ahead were offered complementary group and individual support services for a five-month period.
First, the evaluation focused on the impact of Get-Ahead – and subsequent exposure to mentoring – on profitability, sales and business survivorship for treated firms (the primary outcomes examined among treated firms).
Second, the evaluation explores changes in secondary outcomes among treated firms. Specifically, what is the effect of Get-Ahead – and subsequent exposure to mentoring – on overall employment, empowerment, subjective well-being and household asset ownership?
Third, the evaluation focuses on the impact of the intervention on primary outcomes of non-treated firms. The underlying question is: what is the impact of training and mentoring on the profitability, sales and survivorship of non-treated firms in the same marketplace?
Last, the evaluation seeks to understand the causal chain and the underlying mechanisms of the process. It departs from the hypothesis that training and mentoring should lead to increases in business knowledge and more deployment of business practices. It also deviates from the hypothesis that training and mentoring should potentially operate to increase profitability or sales through increased marketing, better responsiveness to down periods, greater access to finance, better inventory management, better avoidance of household demands and increased self-confidence.
Individuals were assigned to treatment and control groups for the business training intervention in a two-stage process.
First, markets were assigned to treatment (with some individuals from these markets invited to training) or control (no one in the market would be invited to training) status. Randomisation was carried out within 35 strata defined by geographical region (within county) and the number of women surveyed in the market.
Then, within each market, individuals were assigned to treatment (be invited to training) or control (not be invited to training) by forming four strata, based on quartiles of weekly profits from the census and then assigning half the individuals within each strata to training.
The analysis pools short and long-run follow-up data to get average effects at one and three years and uses an ANCOVA specification where the baseline data are available in order to maximise power. It captures treatment and spillover effects from business training at one- and three-year horizons, as well as the differential impact of mentoring.
Firms assigned to training are 3 percentage points more likely to survive after three years, earn 18 per cent higher sales and make 15 per cent higher profits. Their owners have better mental health and a higher subjective standard of living.
These gains are greater at three years than at one year after the training and are similar for firms assigned to training only as for firms also assigned to a mentor. These gains come with no significant spillover effects on untreated firms operating in the same markets, and total sales and the total number of customers is higher in the treated markets than in the control markets.
There is no reduction in new entry into these markets after training. This market growth appears to stem from better customer services, better business practices, and the introduction of new products, with no significant impacts on access to finance or input management. In the absence of additional finance, firms slowly built up inventories and capital likely by re-investing profits, which explains the stronger impacts on profits and sales by year three.
The study concludes that in underdeveloped markets, microenterprise growth need not come at the expense of competitors, and business training is an effective measure for governments and development practitioners to facilitate overall market grow.
Factoring in the cost of training, the evaluation shows that the gain in profits would need to last for at least 76 weeks, or approximately 1.5 years, for the benefits of the programme to exceed the costs. The data at three years suggests this is plausible. While mentoring seemed to help reinforce business practices, adding it to the Get-Ahead programme, mentoring does not increase cost-effectiveness.