The award was won in the master category for the Kenyan region.
The internationally acclaimed entrepreneur awards being held in Monte Carlo, Monaco saw Riria represent East Africa alongside other regional master category winners from more than 145 cities in more than 60 countries across the globe.
“I am very humbled to have been identified as an entrepreneur of the year. I am more humbled because it is micro finance and for the women of East Africa,” an excited Jennifer Riria, CEO, Kenya Women Holding told CNBC Africa.
The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year award is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs.
The awards program recognises entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in areas such as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities by making the world a better place.
Riria will be up against the world’s leading entrepreneurs for the global title.
In 1991, Riria was brought on board to help revive the Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT). She is attributed for spearheading key reforms in the micro finance space in the country.
“I took over KWFT when it was minus two million Kenyan shillings in uncollectable debt and now [the trust] has evolved into three aspects. Kenya Women’s Micro-finance Bank, Kenya Women’s Insurance and Kenya Women the Non-governmental organisation that advocates for women,” said Riria.
KWFT Microfinance, a Deposit Taking Microfinance regulated by the central bank and a non-financial services institution mission is to empower, position and advocate for women.
“Over the last 24 years we have reached to more than 2.3 million women and their families. We have disbursed over 1.3 billion Kenyan shillings. We have products that address the concerns of women, that address survival,” Riria said.
KWFT is the first regulated microfinance bank to break even and continue building capacity to serve more women and their families in Kenya and in the regions. The institution has helped set up several income generating projects run by women in different parts of the country including initiatives to improve health care, access to water and affordable clean energy.
“We take financing and products to the poor people in the villages. They do not come to us and what poor people need is not big money but it is access it and that is what micro finance has been able to do,” Riria explained.
Riria sits on various boards and has received numerous awards for her work in the microfinance sector.