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, including in climate-smart agriculture. 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.

CAMFED works to open up new pathways for young women through training and mentorship programs, and provides access to seed money grants or small loans.

CAMFED Association leaders with expertise setting up and running businesses provide training in business, financial literacy and life skills for the next generation of graduates. Young women learn how to plan a business, make a profit and to save money. They also learn about their rights, and gain important sexual and reproductive health knowledge. Together we explore the risk of early marriage – discussing both how to avoid it, and how to raise awareness with other girls and young women.

Through partnerships with organizations like Kiva, and through our own group savings and loan schemes, young women can gain access to the funds they need to grow or expand their businesses, in a context where women in rural areas are often considered ‘unbankable,’ because property and land ownership typically devolves to the men in the family.

And through partnerships with government and enterprise agencies, as well as vocational colleges, we connect young women to additional help, resources and opportunities to gain the skills and advice they need.

CAMFED's Enterprise Development Strategy - Our Ambitions by 2025

As part of CAMFED's 5-year strategic plan, we aim to scale the Enterprise Development Program to

  • 150K

    Create 150,000 new jobs for young women and members of their rural communities

  • 103K

    Increase the number of CAMFED Association-owned businesses from 20,000 to ~103,000

  • 52%

    Grow the average annual income of CAMFED Association-owned businesses by ~52%

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.

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Brighter futures through women's enterprise

This video gives a short overview of CAMFED’s Youth Enterprise strategy and highlights results from our ‘Shaping My Future’ program in Zambia. Watch to find out the transformative impact of supporting 3,922 young women in the transition from school to independence.

A spotlight on CAMFED’s Youth Enterprise Program in Zambia

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

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 learnings 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 scholarships) 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 CAMFED’s livelihoods and leadership analysis

Key outcomes from our 'Shaping My Future' Program

  • 3K

    CAMFED Association members participating in the program created 3,000 new businesses

  • 4K

    CAMFED Association members participating in the program created 4,000 new jobs

  • 10K

    CAMFED Association members participating in the program supported 10,000 children to go to school

Meet young women entrepreneurs from across Africa

Learn how women’s sustainable businesses are transforming lives




Luwiza owns a piggery, as well as cultivating commercial crops, like soya, Irish potatoes, and maize. She provides jobs for young people, and encourages them to think more about the environment – to cut down on bush- burning and the excessive use of chemicals in farming. Luwiza practices intercropping to preserve the soil, and challenges others to think about all the opportunities in agriculture while protecting the land.




Lindiwe is the founder and director of Lee Juice Company. She started the business to meet the demand of hot and thirsty workers passing by her village on the way to and from the mines, and her creativity and ingenuity has paid off. In time, and with support from CAMFED, Lindiwe took the important step of registering her umbrella company – under which sit her juice enterprise, her poultry production business, and her small shop – with the government.




Paulina gained access to an interest-free loan through CAMFED’s partnership with the online lending platform Kiva, as well as entrepreneurial training and peer support from the CAMFED Association. Through her loan, Paulina has been able to rent a bigger work space, invest in more sewing machines, and purchase her fabric wholesale. Crucially, she has also taken on another employee and is using her knowledge and experience to train graduate apprentices.


Sustainable business opportunities for women in northern Ghana

Through an exciting research collaboration with the International Labor Organization and the Mastercard Foundation we explored the agricultural value chains in northern Ghana that offer the greatest potential for female entrepreneurs to create good jobs for themselves and others. The findings, which show that groundnut (peanut) and hand-crafted shea butter value chains offer significant potential, were presented at the 2021 CAMFED-Mastercard Foundation Annual Research and Learning Summit. The report and discussions also detail the constraints that women face and recommendations to help female entrepreneurs grow thriving enterprises.

Read CAMFED Ghana’s Rapid Market Assessment

Related News and Publications


District Business Committees support the ambitions of Young Africa Works

In collaboration with the Ghana Enterprises Agency, CAMFED has established District Business Committees to provide tailored, local support to female entrepreneurs.


Training for 1,250 CAMFED Association entrepreneurs in Tanzania

In 2020, young women from 32 districts in Tanzania were supported to acquire skills in record keeping, financial planning and more, to enable them to grow their businesses. 


Cummins Zambia partners with CAMFED to empower 500 women entrepreneurs

Cummins Zambia has partnered with CAMFED as part of its global Cummins Powers Women initiative. Together, we are supporting 500 young women over three years to become financially independent.

Thank you to our generous recent donors

Together we are breaking the cycle of poverty


Beth Clark $150

Shauna Tomkins $800

Julie Forgit $100

Beverly Ayotte $200

Girl Up MHS $150

Blake Simpkins $100

Robert Genovese $30

Nicole Bushong $60

James Rosborough $100

Joan Ferguson $40

Margaret Oldham £100

Noelle Neglia $35

Elizabeth Copeland $150


J Buswell $350