CAMFED helps pave the way for girls to support themselves after they finish school by setting up and growing their own rural businesses. They create new jobs and use their profits to support more children in school.

Vida, Ghana

CAMA entrepreneur Vida produces a nutritious porridge for children.

Sandra, Zambia

CAMA entrepreneur Sandra in her beauty supplies shop.

Paulina, Tanzania

Paulina, Tanzania

Rural businesses as a pathway to independence, leadership and philanthropy

After school, graduates in rural Africa have few job opportunities. Yet young educated women from disadvantaged families feel a deep responsibility to provide for their siblings and to support other family members, such as a widowed parent or grandparent. The young women themselves continue to be at risk of early marriage and exploitation as they seek financial security.

Through its youth enterprise programs, CAMFED is dedicated to improving the futures of young women beyond the classroom. Generating an income not only supports young women's economic independence, their life choices, and the prospects for their families; it also enables them to expand their reach as activists and philanthropists.

In partnership with the young women leaders educated with CAMFED support, who join the CAMFED Association, we work to open up new pathways for young women through training and mentorship programs, and access to seed money grants or small loans. CAMFED Association leaders with real-life experience in setting up and running businesses provide training in business, financial literacy and life skills for the next generation of graduates. Girls are taught how to plan a business, make a profit and to save money. Alongside business skills, they learn about their rights and are trained in sexual and reproductive health. They also explore the risk of early marriage - discussing both how to avoid it themselves and how to raise awareness with other girls and young women.

Results from our youth enterprise program in Zambia, supporting 3,922 young women in the transition from school to independence:

New businesses created

New jobs created

Children supported in school by the entrepreneurs

By establishing rural enterprises, young women gain a vital source of income and create jobs for themselves and others. Their profits enable them to increase family spending on food, education and health. They gain confidence, self-esteem and status in their communities by being able to provide for themselves and their families and are important female role models. The businesswomen save regularly and use their savings to invest in business growth and further education, as well as giving them a safety net in the event of emergencies. They also use their income to support children in school; increasing the value of their philanthropy and the number of children assisted as their businesses grow.

"We are really respected, we are really role models. Even the chief sees us as role models, because we are empowered and give back to the community. We are seen as hard workers as well…it's a strong group of young rural women.” - CAMFED Association Entrepreneur, Zambia

A scalable approach to enterprise development

The CAMFED Association of educated African women who are committed to helping others is the driver behind the scale and reach of CAMFED's youth enterprise initiatives. Association business experts, based in rural communities across Africa, lead the training and mentoring of young women as they manage the transition from school to entrepreneurship. Their leadership ensures cost-effective, high quality and relevant support for new entrepreneurs.

CAMFED and the CAMFED Association also support entrepreneurs to grow their businesses beyond the micro stage so that they create more jobs and prosperity in rural communities. We connect entrepreneurs to a network of partners from the government, private and NGO sectors who can offer advice and support on key areas such as business registration, quality assurance and distribution opportunities.

Experienced businesswomen offer internships and close mentoring support including advice on value addition and differentiation. Training in areas as diverse as sustainable agriculture, solar lighting and carpentry gives young women the skills and confidence to innovate. We help the women to access affordable financing for business growth. Such support is enabling female entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, improve their margins, access new national and international markets and to create good quality jobs for other young people in rural communities.

Outcomes of CAMFED's 'Shaping My Future' Youth Enterprise Program

The 'Shaping My Future' program was delivered by CAMFED Association members in Zambia between 2013 and 2017. 3,922 young women who had been supported by CAMFED at school participated in the program soon after they graduated from secondary school. Participants received business and life skills training and were assisted to develop business plans. They received a seed grant and mentoring to help them launch and grow their businesses. The report details outcomes and learning from tracking the program over five years.

Highlights include:

  • Business incomes - and the entrepreneurs' philanthropy to support children in school - continued to grow over time 
  • 68% of businesswomen said that their household’s spending on education, health and food had increased since they started their business
  • 53% of entrepreneurs are saving regularly to invest in their business and their further education and to manage emergencies
  • 76% of businesswomen (who couldn't have afforded school themselves without CAMFED bursaries) are now able to fully finance the education of all of the children in their care, including unrelated children for whom they have taken on parental responsibility. As businesses grow, this continues to increase
  • Participants are taking control of their life choices and are less likely to have married early and begun childbearing than their peers

Read the full report here.

CAMFED Association (CAMA) entrepreneurs in the media:


Ayisha’s booming shea butter business


Young women entrepreneurs could make all the difference


Lindiwe, Zimbabwean mogul in the making


Dorcas Apoore, making a difference

What’s next?

With our CAMFED Association growing year-on-year, CAMFED continues to seek investment to expand our support for young women's transition into entrepreneurship and independence.  In addition, we want to help members to expand their businesses, increase profitability, and grow their level of business innovation. Please get in touch to find out more.

Sign up for our newsletter