Financial literacy: an experiment to empower women entrepreneurs of Mauritius and Rodrigues

Women entrepreneurs are contributing greatly to the resilience of the country and there are good reasons to believe that they could contribute even more. The UNDP Mauritius and Seychelles Accelerator Lab plans to test the hypothesis that women, irrespective of their knowledge of finance, can run their businesses better after accessing financial literacy material.

The collective intelligence exercise organised by the lab on 17 June 2021 revealed that one of the biggest concerns of owners of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Mauritius and Rodrigues was a lack of financial literacy. Establishing and operating a business involves complex financial and administrative operations, and many small business owners struggle with documents that require some knowledge of accounting or finance. As a result, small enterprises tend to operate in a “financial fog”, struggle with procedures, and are susceptible to making irrational decisions.   

Experimenting self-paced financial literacy training for women-led MSMEs

Many of the small businesses in Mauritius and Rodrigues are operated by women. In some cases, these women entrepreneurs have a limited knowledge of finance. Improving the financial literacy of these women entrepreneurs is undoubtedly critical for enhancing the viability of their businesses. While formal training, to which enterprises already contribute a training levy to the Human Resource Development Council, could be a solution, small businesses encounter difficulties releasing their limited staff to full-time sessions. For women, this kind of training is also impeded by domestic responsibilities such as child care. Another factor playing against formal training is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has made face-to-face training practically impossible.

The UNDP Mauritius and Seychelles Accelerator Lab considers that self-paced online training on financial literacy could enable MSME owners to improve the management of their businesses more efficiently. Through simple online videos delivered in Mauritian Creole on precise finance topics, and an online forum to facilitate peer-to-peer learning, many Mauritian women entrepreneurs could benefit from a more flexible solution towards improving their financial knowledge.

The Accelerator Lab plans to explore and test the efficiency of this self-paced online training solution with the participation of 15 women entrepreneurs from Mauritius and Rodrigues. This experiment, to be held with the collaboration of an educational institution and tax and business authorities, will include 15 women entrepreneurs from Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) of Mauritius and Rodrigues.

The proposed experiment will require the following:

  • A person who is responsible for making financial decisions in a women-led MSME (typically, the owner) performs an initial Financial Literacy test online.
  • The person then has access, for a duration of three months, to short videos delivered in Mauritian Creole on various financial aspect of running a business.
  • During this period, all trainees will have the possibility to interact through an online learning platform, as a means towards peer-to-peer learning.
  • At the end of the three months, the person undergoes a similar test as at the beginning to evaluate her progress.

The Accelerator Lab wants to demonstrate that these women will be better equipped to run a profitable business as they would have acquired new knowledge and skills in finance.

We believe that MSMEs, with leaders who have a better grasp of finance, have a better chance of succeeding and, therefore, contribute to the development of the country. Such MSMEs also can create more jobs which is desirable in this COVID-19 context.

The next step

After consultations with potential stakeholders, including women entrepreneurs, the Accelerator Lab is in the process of identifying a partner to run this experiment during the first quarter of 2022.

The partner will be responsible to conduct the tests and create the multimedia content as well as provide the online learning platform. It will have to ensure that the videos created are straightforward to understand and really useful to small business owners. In other words, this experiment is not an academic experiment but rather an opportunity for women entrepreneurs to better run their companies and thus attain new heights. With 52% of its population being women, the Republic of Mauritius has all to gain by empowering its women entrepreneurs.

Women MSME owners who would like to be considered for this experiment, can contact the Accelerator Lab team at Individuals, public or private organisations willing to partner with UNDP to conduct this experiment are also encouraged to contact the team.