Walmart’s Empowering Women Together initiative, which aims to empower African women in business, will be evaluated by a research team from Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.
The team will develop a measurement system to track the impact of the programme, launched in 2011, to help very small to medium-sized enterprises run by women with the aim to integrate them into Walmart’s supply chain.
Professor Linda Scott, from Saïd Business School, said: “Because Walmart draws its stock from all kinds of supply chains, from fisheries to agriculture to crafts and more, the potential for this initiative to help women in Africa is historic.
And the research itself will be ground-breaking: no work has yet been done that analyses the women’s economy as a complex interaction between business-building, employment opportunities, and purchase patterns, all among women, especially in the context of engagement with a major corporation.
“In recent years there has been a growing realisation that increasing women’s incomes has profound positive effects on a wide range of indicators from fertility, to disease burdens, to national competitiveness. So, the obstacles are great, but the goal is worth the effort.”
Work for the project began in Autumn 2013, and the team is now focusing on system participants in East Africa. Visiting suppliers by August 2014, two case studies will be published, one of which on Katchy Kollections, a jewellery business in Nairobi, Kenya.
Professor Scott added: “We have already done the work in these sites and are currently comparing the data before we begin to write.
“Each of these businesses operates under vastly different conditions and yet there are some surprising similarities.
“All of this is a challenge to develop a measurement metric which is appropriate for the full range of organisations involved in the system.”
She will also be blogging about the project, “Our aim is to be as transparent about the project as possible.
“This study is an independent and rigorous academic research project, not a consulting job, and we expect that what we learn will be important for policy makers in Africa, Walmart, and other corporations undertaking similar initiatives.”