Today marks a milestone for 5by20, which is our global initiative to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020, as recent data reveals we've reached more than 1.2 million of these women across 60 different countries since 2010.

Part of this progress can be attributed to strong growth in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, while in 2015 alone our 5by20 initiative reached more than 372,000 women entrepreneurs, an increase of 43% over the prior year.

For Noko, owner of a small restaurant north of Johannesburg, business skills training courses offered through a programme implemented by Coca-Cola, UN Women and Hand in Hand helped her support the five children she cares for. She learned about record-keeping, managing stock and financial management.

Today, her self-confidence, income and ambitions have grown. Noko now has three employees and plans to install a big billboard at the entrance of her town. She’s working on making menus and designing uniforms. And her tripe dish, calledmogodu, is bringing in the customers.

“I am very proud of my business and want to attract even more customers, maybe even tourists,” said Noko, 40. “After my training, my eyes have been opened up to great possibilities.”

Bea Perez, Coke's Chief Sustainability Officer, said thriving, sustainable communities are critical for a sustainable business. "And women are absolutely essential to our success,” she added. “We still have a significant amount of work to do, but I am proud of the progress we are making. It’s inspiring when I am able to meet the participants and see firsthand how 5by20 is transforming the lives of women, families and communities around the world.”

5by20 focuses on helping women entrepreneurs across the Coca-Cola value chain overcome challenges when establishing and growing their business. The entrepreneurs’ job descriptions are as varied as their backgrounds: fruit farmer, supplier, distributor, retailer, recycler and artisan. 5by20 provides access to business skills, financial services, assets and support networks of peers and mentors.

In the long run, that helps build sustainable communities, says Therese Gearhart, president, Coca-Cola Southern Africa. “An educated, successful and empowered woman creates a ripple effect throughout her community when she can afford her children’s education, provide basic medical needs for her family and help support and mentor other women entrepreneurs,” said added. “The entire community benefits.”

Results on the Ground: South Africa

In 2013, Coca-Cola and Ipsos, a leading global market research company, began conducting an impact study of 101 women entrepreneurs in Guateng and North West provinces near Johannesburg, South Africa.

These women retailers were part of a larger 5by20 business skills training programme implemented in collaboration with partners UN Women and Hand in Hand Southern Africa.

Results from the participants over 18 months were encouraging:

  • The participants saw an average 44% growth in business sales and a 23% average jump in personal income.
  • On average, the women became more able to afford basic expenses such as children’s education, medical visits and clothing. About two-thirds of participants said they were able to put money in savings each month.
  • More than half (54%) of participants reported their business improved “a lot” as a result of the training.
  • More than 90% of the women said they were confident they would keep their businesses open and will be able to grow.

Read about what we are doing to empower women: