Nkem Okocha’s SheSabi app is helping women learn vocational skills and earn a living

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The World Bank estimates that Nigeria’s Adult Literacy Rate is 62.2%. For most people who could not attain higher academic qualifications, learning a vocational skill is the perfect means of skilling up and providing services that people will pay for. But becoming an apprentice is not easy either.

Inioluwa, a former hairdressing apprentice, shared that she was asked to pay N10,000 to start learning with a hairdresser in Agbowo, Ibadan. After the initial payment, the learning process is then punctuated by different tasks like fetching water, running errands, preparing food and doing other odd jobs for the senior instructors.

The training sometimes runs from several months into several years and ends with a graduation ceremony which also costs lots of money when you consider the buying of passing-out gifts for the teacher as well as fulfil ceremonial requirements.

It is for these reasons that Nkem Okocha’s Mamamoni developed and launched SheSabi on June 25, 2021. It is a mobile app that provides vocational courses for young women for free.

The courses are developed in-house by certified Mamamoni teachers and then recorded and uploaded for use on SheSabi. The femtech educational app is only available on Google Playstore for now.

Courses and certificates are entirely free

In a virtual interview, Mamamoni’s founder, Nkem Okocha, explained that the goal of the app is to help young girls have a source of livelihood.

“If there is no source of livelihood, these women will not be able to take advantage of all the financial products that are out there,” she said.

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SheSabi caters to women at the bottom levels of the pyramid and removes the barriers to starting a sustainable business. The courses available on the app teach skills ranging from Financial Literacy, Business Development, Hair Making, Hairdressing, Fashion Design, Makeup and Chemical Productions.

The only requirement for taking any of the courses is that the individual must be above 13 years and can access the internet. After a course is completed, SheSabi issues a certificate to the person who took it and further opens the opportunity to access microloans from Mamamoni.

Okocha told me that applying for the microloans does not require a business plan or a pitch deck. She said, “The women we are targeting do not know much about pitch decks or how to create a solid business plan.”

How then does the funding process happen?

Mamamoni has been providing microloans to women for years. In 2020, the social impact startup gave soft loans to about 300 women to help them restart their businesses after the Covid-19 hit. In place of an elaborate application process, Nkem Okocha told TechNext that she and her team travelled to the communities where these women are, speak with them and understand their pain points.

Nkem Okocha

The only criteria, she says, is that “We do not give money to women that we do not know and who have not taken any of our training.”

The startup teaches the women vocational skills as well as how to manage money, repay loans and build businesses before deeming them qualified for any sort of microloans.

This same process is used with SheSabi. After the young women have been trained and certified, they can apply for microloans from Mamamoni without a business plan or other nitty-gritty. Through Community Champions that the startup is currently recruiting, it is able to guide women in taking the online courses as well as stay in contact with them when they get loans and start their businesses.

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Application for these loans is completed online since SheSabi will be used from all over Nigeria. However, the portal will not be ready for use until the end of July.

Using SheSabi is free, but it costs money to get teachers to record the courses and upload for free access. To ease the financial burden on the startup, Nkem says they are working with and looking for companies that are interested in reducing the number of unemployed women in Africa.

She said, “Women have long been denied opportunities because of the patriarchial system in Africa and we recognize that a lot needs to be done to close the gap. We need funding to be able to scale this app and make it available to people everywhere for free.”

SheSabi’s female focus does not mean that men cannot take courses on the app. However, they will not be issued any certificate after completing the course. As Nkem reiterated, “It is because of the young and older women that we are passionate about in Mamamoni.”

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