New Program to Help 28,000 Kenyan Micro-Enterprises Respond to the COVID-19 Crisis

Nairobi, Kenya – This month, international nonprofit TechnoServe and the Mastercard Foundation announced the launch of the Micro-Enterprises Strengthened for Pandemic Adaptation and Resilience in Kenya (mSPARK) program, a one-year partnership to help 28,000 entrepreneurs respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenya’s micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector is vitally important, accounting for nearly one-third of the country’s GDP and employing more than eight million people directly and indirectly. Informal retail shops form the bulk of MSMEs and are essential to local communities –  reaching populations often overlooked by larger firms, serving as a vital link in food supply chains, and providing economic opportunities in areas where there are few, particularly for young people and women.

However, micro-enterprises are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis , which is creating new challenges for these businesses. The combination of lockdowns, curfews, and broader economic disruptions has often made it difficult for micro-enterprises to maintain their sales, source supplies, and operate safely. Without support, many of these businesses will have to lay off staff or close permanently.

“When COVID-19 struck, I didn’t know what to do, and that caused me a lot of panic and stress,” said Elizabeth Jeremiah, owner of a micro-retail shop outside of Nairobi. “I was struggling to keep my business running, and I almost closed down due to the financial hardships.”

By combining financial support with timely technical advice, the mSPARK program is designed to help 28,000 entrepreneurs—70% of whom will be young people, and 60% women—in and around Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kilifi to keep their micro-enterprises afloat so they can continue to serve their communities. Using digitally enabled training, the program will equip entrepreneurs with a toolkit of skills needed to adapt their businesses to the current crisis. The program will also engage suppliers and distributors of essential goods to strengthen their connections with micro-retailers and minimize disruptions to the supply chain.

“Micro-enterprises form the backbone of so many communities in Kenya, but they are facing a moment of real crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said TechnoServe’s Alice Waweru, program director of mSPARK. “We must urgently act to help entrepreneurs save their businesses, and we are excited to partner with the Mastercard Foundation and 4G Capital on this initiative.”

Working in close collaboration with fintech company 4G Capital, mSPARK will help entrepreneurs access $4.4 million in repayable grants to cover immediate working capital needs, as well as strengthen their long-term access to finance.

“A repayable grant will be a lifesaving opportunity, as I will have the funds to stay afloat and not have to close down my shop. Being trained on how to navigate through such a crisis will allow me to get out of it  better and stronger,” added Jeremiah.

“MSMEs need support more than ever and the Mastercard Foundation is proud to work with these partners to deliver tailored support to tens of thousands of MSMEs. Our aim is to help them sustain their activities and continue to provide opportunities for dignified work,” said Daniel Hailu, Regional Head, Eastern and Southern Africa at the Mastercard Foundation.


About TechnoServe

TechnoServe is a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. A non-profit organization operating in 29 countries, we work with hard-working men and women in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses, and industries. By linking people to information, capital, and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities.

Founded over 50 years ago, TechnoServe has been named the #1 nonprofit for fighting poverty by the ImpactMatters charity ratings agency.

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to enable young people in Africa and in Indigenous communities in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. It is one of the largest, private foundations in the world with a mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. The Foundation was created by Mastercard in 2006 as an independent organization with its own Board of Directors and management.

For more information on the Foundation, please visit:

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Rebecca Regan-Sachs

Director, Communications

Mastercard Foundation

Helen White

Strategy Lead, Program Communications