Africa has more women entrepreneurs: World Bank

By Loveness Nyathi

WHILE the world of business has always been a male dominated field, it turns out in Africa more women are taking up entrepreneurship which is touted as the next mainstay of economies.

According to a World Bank report on their website, Governments should work towards challenges that face women in entrepreneurship that include lack of capital, the choice of business sector, and commercial practices.

“Expanding the opportunities for female entrepreneurs through policies that foster gender equality would have a tremendous impact on Africa’s growth. Simple and inexpensive solutions have been proven effective and should be adopted on a wider scale,” read the article.

“While both male and female entrepreneurs face such constraints as a lack of capital, women are specifically impacted by a number of obstacles, such as discrimination and the dearth of collateral. As a result, female-owned enterprises post monthly profits that are on average 38 percent lower than those of male-owned enterprises.”

According to the report, data collected in ten African countries on average, male-owned enterprises have six times more capital than female-owned enterprises. The fact that women have less access to assets affects their ability to obtain medium-sized loans and, in turn, impacts the growth of their enterprises. 

The World Bank states that eliminating the need for collateral and following the Rwandan example of giving women more control over assets through the granting of joint property rights.

In Zimbabwe the creation of Women’s Microfinance Bank in 2018 brought hope for more funding for women but on the ground few women are accessing the funds with most women saying they are not aware of the operations of the bank and how they can access funds.

There have also been accusations that it is more of a partisan institution being used by the ruling Zanu (PF) to gratify their supporters.

The international financial institution also highlighted that women need to choose male-dominated sectors which provide higher income revealing that in Uganda women who, during their youth, had male mentors who encouraged them to consider sectors reserved for men are more inclined to make a foray into these sectors while in Guinea and the Republic of Congo, there are programmes that encourage women to transition toward traditionally male-dominated sectors by providing them with appropriate information and mentoring programs.

In the article, the World Bank cited training as one critical factor, giving an example of Togo where   training aimed at fostering proactive behaviors among entrepreneurs rather than teaching them basic commercial skills has had a significant impact. 

“The idea is to teach small entrepreneurs to show initiative, be proactive, and demonstrate perseverance. This training is yielding impressive results as the female trainees have seen a 40 percent average increase in their profits. One example of this is a female entrepreneur in Togo who, prior to the training, merely rented wedding dresses. After receiving the personal initiative training, she decided to expand her clientele by selling dresses and offering such accessories as veils and gloves. She now owns boutiques in three African countries. 

Entrepreneurial training of this nature was so successful in Togo that eight other countries have also decided to offer it,” read the report.

The bank revealed the solutions are proof that inexpensive ideas exist to support female entrepreneurs in Africa and that minor changes, such as modifying the type of training offered to women can alter their fate, and the fate of the African continent.