It might come as a surprise to some that an African country, Uganda, ranks first in the world for having the most entrepreneurs per capita, according to recent research conducted by UK-based business-networking group, Approved Index. Three further African countries, Cameroon, Angola and Botswana also occupy places amongst the top nine countries with the most entrepreneurs, many of them women.
The number of entrepreneurs in these top 9 ranked countries (Uganda, Thailand, Brazil, Cameroon, Vietnam, Angola, Jamaica, Botswana and Chile) was calculated by the researchers as the percentage of the adult population that owns or co-owns a new business and has paid salaries or wages for three or more months. Perhaps surprising to many is that the US ranks much lower down the list for the number of entrepreneurs in the country, coming in at 41st in the world, with 4.3% of their adult population being entrepreneurs. Similarly, Britain was ranked only 37th with 4.6% of their adult population being entrepreneurs.
According to the World Economic Forum coverage of the research the high percentage of entrepreneurs found in these top 9 ranked countries can be attributed to the fact that "Running your own business has its perks — more control, no boss, and choice of working hours." Business Insider's report on the Approved Index research describes the findings as follows, "In the UK and the US, entrepreneurs are associated with startups. But in some countries, becoming self-employed is a necessity rather than a dream. You have to make your own opportunities when there are not many jobs available." This is certainly the case on the African continent.
The research suggest the countries with the most entrepreneurs are going through a commercial revolution. “In countries where the economy is poorer, or where unemployment rates are high, citizens turn to starting their own small businesses where they see opportunity,” Trilby Rajna of Approved Index said. “I am South African and will never forget the makeshift cardboard photo booth pitched outside the traffic department in Cape Town. “All that was needed was a camera, a portable printer, and a plain wall. People like myself who had forgotten to bring ID photos along for their license were queuing up outside. It was an excellent idea.”
THE 9 COUNTRIES WITH THE MOST ENTREPRENEURS PER CAPITA (Source: Approved Index UK)
More about the nine top ranked countries
9. Chile — This country is considered one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations, and about 11% of its population choose entrepreneurship. Here a big seminar on Chile-based startups is underway.
8. Botswana — 11.1% of the population are entrepreneurs, setting up swathes of stalls across the country to bring in personal business.
7. Jamaica — 11.9% are self-employed, and many are street vendors. The government has pushed for greater adoption of entrepreneurial ideas when it comes to technology.
6. Angola — 12.4% of the population work for themselves. Street sellers, “zungueiros” for males and “zungueiras” for females, make up a large portion of the self-employed. Traffic jams directly help these workers in pushing their products to customers.
5. Vietnam — about 13.3% of the population are self-employed. Vietnam is known for its prolific stalls and “street barbers.”
4. Cameroon — 13.7% of the country is self-employed, including many workers in the service and food industries.
3. Brazil — 13.8% are entrepreneurs and are predominantly single-person vendors. Almost half of the entrepreneurs are women.
2. Thailand — 16.7% of the country work for themselves, and transportation is one of the biggest sectors. Tuk tuks, or rickshaws, are staple ways of getting around the city and can earn you a decent wage in tourist-heavy areas.
1. Uganda — a massive 28.1% of the population are entrepreneurs, capitalising on the freedom that comes with shirking off decades-long rule by dictatorship. Many of the self-employed are seeing their businesses expand because of the country’s recently laid fibre optic cables that connect even remote villages to the internet.
Perspectives on women's entrepreneurship in Uganda
Whilst an ever increasing number of women are turning to entrepreneurship in Uganda as a way to advance their economic prospects, the odds still remain heavily stacked against them. The fact that 40% of all businesses are owned by women but 93% of the credit for all businesses goes to men, is a sobering reality. The Ugandan Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) is an initiative that is tackling this gender bias head on. As a way of raising the profile of women entrepreneur, UWEAL issues an award to the best Female Entrepreneur of the Year to encourage female business owners, and defy stereotypes of entrepreneurship as a male activity.
The message seems to be getting across and more women are making their mark as founders of successful businesses. One such woman entrepreneur is Regina Mukiibi Mugango, Director of Uganda Funeral Services Limited. She works to help people in grief to provide a dignified funeral for their loved ones. “Entrepreneurship is identifying a gap in your community and translating it into an opportunity. That’s what we did”, “I am proud to tell you that Uganda Funeral Services is a pioneer company,” she says. “We changed the image of death.”
“Culturally in Uganda women don’t own land, and that is the major requirement from the bank to show them what you have and what is your security,” says Stella Maris Ddumba-Sewagaba, Chief Executive Officer at UWEAL. “Without access to finance, being in business becomes a challenge.”
According to Carol Cooke who made the film Ugandan Women Mean Business, businesses in Uganda is still largely seen as the man’s world. But these ideas are changing, along with developing opportunities for women.
Over the past few months, LoA has been profiling some of the most successful and inspirational women entrepreneurs of Uganda who are changing the face of entrepreneurship in their own country and around the African continent and beyond. Read the startup stories of Julian Omalla, founder of Delight Uganda, one of Africa's most successful drinks and foodstuffs businesses; Ngyenzi 'Nunu' Mugyenyi, Janet Mugume and Angel Kalisa, the co-founders of leading fashion retail concept, BOLD Kampala; Juliana Nasasira, founder of creative fashion label, Kwesh; Brenda Katwesigye, the founder of health-tech company Instahealth; and sisters Nadia and Nahida Bhegani together with childhood friend Olga Mugyenyi, the founders of fashion sensation DEF.I.NI.TION Africa. Meet them here: