Africa leads the world in terms of numbers of women business owners. In fact, women in Africa are more likely than men to be entrepreneurs.
Africa leads the world in terms of numbers of women business owners. In fact, women in Africa are more likely than men to be entrepreneurs. Women make up 58 % the continent’s self-employed population. However, a recent World Bank report, Profiting from Parity, shows that women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa continue to earn lower profits than men (34 % less on average). World Bank Group. 2019. Profiting from Parity : Unlocking the Potential of Women's Business in Africa.
Female entrepreneurship: not so much a choice as a necessity
Women in Africa are more likely than men to choose entrepreneurship not because they have a burning passion or the right skills, but because of a lack of better opportunities. Wage job opportunities are relatively scarce in Africa and this is even more the case for women who often have lower levels of formal education and may face discrimination in hiring practices. Additionally, women tend to be given most of the responsibility for home-based work, including childcare, so small-scale home-based businesses may be one of the few ways they can generate an income to help cover the needs of their families.
Teaching female entrepreneurs appropriate skills
Second, we need to think outside the box. While most African countries have achieved gender parity in access to primary education, a persistent gap in educational and skill attainment between male and female entrepreneurs – particularly at the secondary level and beyond – may help explain gender differences in strategic business decisions. Self-employed women have overall completed fewer years of education than self-employed men, and male entrepreneurs often have higher technical skills. However, the Profiting from Parity report shows that training programs providing traditional business skills to women entrepreneurs have had disappointing impacts on firm profits. New evidence suggests that we may simply be teaching the wrong skills. Rather than teaching traditional business skills like accounting, there is promising evidence that socio-emotional skills, such as personal initiative and perseverance, matter more.
In Togo, a training that taught small entrepreneurs to show initiative, be proactive, and demonstrate perseverance yielded impressive results: women who took this training saw a 40 % average increase in their profits, compared to no significant increase for those taking a traditional business training.
One example of this is a female entrepreneur in Togo who, prior to the training, 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. This ‘Personal Initiative’ training has now been replicated in multiple contexts across two continents, with positive results. Through private sector partnerships, such trainings could be scaled up throughout the continent, both within larger firms as well as in the entrepreneurial community. (Ideas4develop, June 2021)
Coachability Foundation works in that direction. We truly believe that the soft skills training in one of the success of entrepreneurship.
Pic by Tahiti Spears
World Bank Group. 2019. Profiting from Parity : Unlocking the Potential of Women's Business in Africa. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/31421 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”