Among the many businesses that will benefit from U.S. investment in Africa is an e-commerce startup that helps women in rural African communities access health and wellness supplies.
The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), America’s development bank, will make a $1 million equity investment in Kasha Global Incorporated.
In addition to health and wellness products, Kasha also sells personal protective equipment to combat the spread of COVID-19. These products go to women in low-income and vulnerable communities who would otherwise have difficulty obtaining them.
Kasha designed its site to work with basic mobile phones for women who lack access to smartphones.
The U.S. investment will help the company expand its footprint into other countries, hire more agents and expand their customer base, says Loren Rodwin, the managing director of DFC’s Small and Medium Enterprise Finance Department.
Two women, Joanna Bichsel and Amanda Arch, started Kasha. Many of its employees are women, and it offers a service that helps women. It has over 65 employees and more than 200 agents who work with women in remote regions to help them make purchases. The agents are women living in low-income communities who can make last-mile deliveries. To date, it has served over 75,000 unique customers and 100,000 consumers.
Kasha’s agents are a crucial part of its business. They educate customers about the products, help customers place their orders and assist with deliveries.
“Agents who are known in the community are building a close relationship with the company and the customers have a high level of trust with the agents,” Rodwin says.
In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa where supply chains for women’s health and beauty products are weak and unreliable, low-income women struggle to access basic health products. Kasha offers reasonably priced pharmaceuticals, beauty products, diapers and more. Feminine hygiene products are its top seller. Girls in the region are often kept from school because they lack access to those products.
With such investments, the United States supports local ownership and local management of supply chains.
Part of Kasha’s ability to help women in rural communities is its control over which suppliers it uses.
“When you have local ownership and management of a supply chain, it’s just much more efficient and you can be more agile,” Rodwin says. “This is something that is just part of the essential purpose of the company.”
DFC learned about Kasha through the 2016 Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, which drew nearly 6,000 people from 169 countries. DFC is supporting the company because Kasha’s business goals align with several DFC programs, including the 2X Women’s Initiative, which has invested $3 billion in projects advancing women’s economic empowerment in the developing world, and DFC’s Health and Prosperity Initiative.
“The products and the information will help women have better health outcomes, so that’s the key reason why we’re interested,” Rodwin says.