Rise of women entrepreneurs in developing countries

A case of sub-Saharan Africa

Essay, 2015

5 Pages



It has been repeatedly documented that the rise of women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries has hit a record high over the past decade. This article examines the direct and indirect causes of the rapid growth of women entrepreneurs in developing countries. Light is also shed on significant challenges to faster growth of female entrepreneurship and key factors to sustain this positive trend are proposed.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is currently the second fastest growing region of the world after Asia. Two publications (McKinsey Global Institute, 2010 and The Economist, 2011) highlighted the positive prospects of African economies driven by a rise in entrepreneurial activity. This renewed interest in Africa calls for action from management scholars.

This article examines this growth from the perspective of women entrepreneurs who currently occupy larger statistics compared to the entire history of Africa as a continent. Compared to other regions of the world, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of female entrepreneurs. These women are mostly owners of small businesses and local community shops serving the unmet needs of their homes and consumers.These include hair salon owners, high-tech visionaries and everything in between, all making critical economic contributions.


Historically, women in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) countries were marginalized and relegated to subordinate positions in these economies when compared to men. Their access to critical resources was very limited. As a consequence, female business ownership is a very recent phenomenon. In the recent past, however, female business ownership in SSA countries has risen dramatically, partly as result of the economic crises that these countries went through in the late 1970s and 1980s. However, in most developing countries today, entrepreneurship has proven itself as a key path to job creation and income generation, reducing inequalities among men and women.

In many emerging economies, women are now starting businesses at a faster rate than men, making significant contributions to job creation and economic growth. The recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Women’s Report found 126 million women starting or running businesses globally, and 98 million operating established businesses (defined as over three and a half years old). That’s 224 million women affecting the global economy — and this survey counts only 67 of the 188 countries recognized. Women-owned entities in the formal sector currently represent approximately 27% of enterprises.

Some skeptics describe this as just a passing media fad while visionaries paint a picture of a fundamental economic force that’s reshaping the world. Experiences, challenges and suggestions presented here-in are a result of observation and face to face interviews with the women entrepreneurs as well as other players within the female business environment.

I. Rapid rise of the female boss

The key sectors of the African economy that have for the past decade stood out as the fastest growers are a pre-dominantly female arena. One such sector is agriculture. By most measures, agriculture is the Africa’s biggest employer. It is especially important for the poor, 95 percent of whom live in rural areas.

In countries like Uganda where 91 percent of the women’s work force is unskilled, non-profit organizations like GROW helped train 400 local women farmers who then created production societies, with each earning nearly $120 (UGX-340,000) in monthly additional income by selling seeds and final produce to local buyers.

The second sector is tourism. In Africa, tourism employs more than 100 million workers directly—while stimulating many other jobs, tax revenues, and related impacts, reaching deep into local economies. Comprising business and leisure hotels, transport, tour operators, restaurants and attractions, its role is vast, and shifting rapidly toward the emerging markets. The UN’s Global Report on Women in tourism 2010 shows that tourism provides better opportunities for women’s employment, entrepreneurship, and leadership than many other industries and for Africa’s case ownership of these tourism businesses is mostly by females.


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Rise of women entrepreneurs in developing countries
A case of sub-Saharan Africa
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
387 KB
women, business, Africa, money, development, Uganda, huda, siraje, nabukeera, Mustafa, Bahiga, 4th
Quote paper
Nabukeera Huda Siraje (Author), 2015, Rise of women entrepreneurs in developing countries, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/293763


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