#WEFAfrica2019: Increasing Opportunities for Female Entrepreneurs in Africa


Monday, September 16, 2019 / 10.00AM / Nifemi Taiyese for Proshare WebTV / Header Image Credit: smefinanceforum


As African governments seek to address the issues of poverty and unemployment on the continent, one area that provides an opportunity for unlocking economic activity is expanding "Female Entrepreneurship".

At the just concluded 2019 World Economic Forum for Africa, the need to encourage the growth of female entrepreneurship in the continent, was one of the critical issues discussed at the forum.

Female entrepreneurs across Africa that participated in the event called for an enabling business environment and gender inclusion in businesses on the continent.



Participants noted that financing is critical to driving female entrepreneurship in Africa and just recently the African Development Bank, AfDB announced the $251m Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), supported by the G-7 group of nations.

The initiative is designed to improve access to funds for women in Africa, who are looking at setting up businesses.

They participants noted that this was a welcome development and should go a long way in addressing the financing challenge for women on the continent.

It was observed that The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, the largest enterprise development initiative in Africa, has provided major support to female entrepreneurship, it was noted that since inception in 2015,  over 30% of the 5,000 African entrepreneurs that benefitted financially are women.

According to World Bank, female entrepreneurship rate is high in Africa. In countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya female entrepreneurs exceed their male counterparts.


Policies and Initiatives

Conferees observed that policies are very important in supporting the development of female entrepreneurship on the continent.

In countries like Uganda the government established the Women Entrepreneurship Scheme, which has prioritized the support and development of female entrepreneurs in the country, with financing provisions.

Rwanda is an example of a leading nation in Africa that promotes gender inclusion.

Since the constitutional reforms of 2003 that addressed all forms of gender discrimination in the country, Rwanda has experienced remarkable growth in women participation in local enterprise.


From available data women play major roles in the following areas;

  • Comprising 58% of enterprises in the informal sector
  • Women head 42% of enterprises in the country
  • They account for 30% of the nation's GDP
  • Provide 16 to 17% of the services sector in the country
  • They constitute 82% of the retail sector Women entrepreneurs

 Women are major players in the Rwandan private sector and this can be replicated across the continent through enabling laws and progressive policies.


Deepening Financial Literacy For Women

Participants further observed that for female entrepreneurs to create value and build sustainable businesses, financial literacy is important.

Some financial institutions understand this and have organized sensitization seminars and workshops in this regard.

This year Ecobank Nigeria organized a "Female Entrepreneur Initiative Workshop" to promote the financial literacy of women entrepreneurs in the country.

Also Standard Chartered Bank supported women entrepreneurs in June 2019 through a capacity building workshop  for women-owned MSME to achieve improved gender representation.



It was agreed by analysts at the conference that collaboration was  necessary to drive female entrepreneurship in Africa, and that this could best be achieved through public-private partnerships.

It was not that there are several groups and organizations that, for example in Nigeria, are doing remarkable jobs in the area of women entrepreneurship and empowerment.

Some of them include the Women of West Africa Entrepreneurship, WOWE, Women In Finance Nigeria Group, WIFNG, and SHE Leads Africa network.

These groups could collaborate and build stronger fronts to engage with the governments across Africa to ensure women given top priority in business development and financing.

Also women billionaires like, Mrs Folorunso Alakija, who is a notable philanthropist on the continent can rally efforts with other African women leaders, to increase support for female entrepreneurs especially in war-torn countries.


Rural Empowerment

The success of the Nobel-prize winning economist and Chairman of Grameen Bank, Professor Mohammed Yunus, is an attestation to the potency of effective microfinance banking in the rural areas according to development economists at the forum.

Grameen Bank attained global reckoning because it focused on rural businesswomen in Bangladesh, who never defaulted on their loans, revealing the fact that women are trustworthy in credit than men.

In Africa women especially in the rural areas have an increased percentage of poverty cases,  due to the lack of access to finance.

This is one area that micro-finance banks should explore in setting up products and plans that can provide reasonable tenure loans and interest rates.

The Central Banks in Africa can design in their respective countries frameworks that should be see micro-finance banks encouraged to lend at a reasonable interest rate regime to women cooperative groups, in the rural areas.

An effective rural empowerment framework in countries like Nigeria, will boost female entrepreneurship in Africa.


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