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  • Writer's pictureAlisa Sydow

Why women entrepreneurs start their businesses and how to support them better

In recent times, an increasing number of women are turning to entrepreneurship as a compelling option, even in the face of limited institutional support and societal norms that may not favour their endeavours. However, the crucial question remains:

What motivates these women to embark on the entrepreneurial journey?

This article takes the first steps in unraveling the motivational factors that drive women to engage in entrepreneurship and aims to shed light on how we can facilitate and support women in their business pursuits.

The origin and characteristics of female entrepreneurs 

In emerging markets such as Africa, it's crucial to note that the notion of entrepreneurship extends beyond theories centered on risk-taking and innovation. While we do have noteworthy instances of female entrepreneurs spearheading the next generation of rapidly expanding scale-ups, a substantial portion involves women engaged in entrepreneurship driven primarily by necessity. This often manifests as an extension of domestic activities which are easier to integrate in their daily lives and duties. Some examples are sewing, vegetable cultivation, and home-based sales. Moreover, these acquired skills are commonly rooted in traditions and passed down within the family circle.

Africa is not a monolithic entity; it's a continent teeming with diverse cultures and distinctive politico-economic scenarios, shaping the entrepreneurial aspirations of women in myriad ways. The relatively high entrepreneurial activity rate in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to other regions can be attributed to factors like limited literacy rates, constrained access to formal employment opportunities, and a significant lack of support from national and international funding sources, especially in isolated regions.

Overcoming survival challenges, women in these circumstances instinctively seek greater autonomy, independently pooling resources. In the absence of robust state infrastructure, these resources manifest as personal savings, moral and financial support from family, and participation in community initiatives. These initiatives, including independent training institutes, micro finance programs, and women's association networks, foster collectivism, information exchange, and the sharing of social capital.

Despite entrepreneurship arising as a reflex in marginalized contexts, the will alone may not sustain projects. However, when presented with tangible possibilities, these entrepreneurs, committed to emancipation, transform aspirations once deemed illegitimate due to cultural and social constraints into decisive action. Moreover, within contexts of governmental neglect, social movements have historically emerged, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of female entrepreneurs who, imbued with a restorative power, defy institutional inertia.

Fostering women in entrepreneurship - but how?

Achieving gender equality in regulations is undoubtedly fundamental, but its implementation demands a nuanced understanding of women's specific requirements. Therefore, empowering women in entrepreneurship requires a dual approach

  1. Establishing a legal framework that caters to the unique needs of women entrepreneurs and

  2. Fostering an internal mindset shift among women themselves

This calls for extensive research and dialogue to intricately tailor new regulations to their needs, requiring an empathetic connection with the end-users of these regulations.

Yet, supportive regulations alone are insufficient. Our experiences in Africa, coupled with our involvement in Nampelka, highlight a significant aspect – many women who play pivotal roles as entrepreneurs or leaders don't always perceive themselves as such. While this may seem inconsequential, it profoundly influences their interactions with stakeholders. Recognizing and embracing entrepreneurship must extend beyond legal frameworks; it necessitates a holistic shift in mindset.

Thus, a crucial step is to empower women to fully embody their roles as founders, fostering a 360-degree perspective that encompasses their complete identity as entrepreneurs.

What do you think? Alisa & Kanto

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