THE EDIT | by Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa
This month sees the increasingly important subject of women’s entrepreneurship becoming top of mind, with the launch of the inaugural Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Day taking place on 19th November. The official launch of this important day may be happening at the United Nations headquarters in New York, but the positive reverberations will be felt around the globe, and no more so than here in Africa.
There is no doubt that entrepreneurship can have a powerful impact on the future growth of economies around the world. One of the most exciting developments is the role of women entrepreneurs as the drivers of this new entrepreneurial spirit. According to the most recent survey results emanating from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2012 Women’s Report published last year, it is estimated that around 126 million women were starting or running new businesses in 67 global economies. In addition, estimates indicate that 98 million women are running established businesses around the world. Around 48 million of these female entrepreneurs and 64 million female business owners are currently employing one or more people, and a projected 7 million female entrepreneurs and 5 million female established business owners pan to grow their businesses by at least six employees over the next five years. Women are going to be significant drivers of business and employment over the coming years.
The good news is that here in Africa, some countries are leading the way in this space, no more so than by the inspirational women entrepreneurs of South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Uganda, to name but a few. According to the most recent survey results emanating from the aforementioned report, a higher or equal number of business start-ups were created by women in these countries, as opposed to those by their male counterparts. In fact, the report also goes on to mention that the highest regional female total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) levels can be found in Sub-Saharan Africa, where on average, 27% of the female population is engaged in some form of entrepreneurial activity. Interestingly, and an example of how Africa bucks the global trend, the report also finds that in terms of entrepreneurial intentions, 52% of women across the Sub-Saharan region intend starting a business in the next three years. This is in stark contrast to Europe where only 8% of women have similar entrepreneurial intentions. Perhaps surprisingly, in some African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda, women have equal or slightly higher levels of entrepreneurship than men, indicating greater gender parity in the business environment.
At a time when many countries in Africa are facing significant economic challenges, perhaps the answer could lie in more women being inspired and encouraged to start and build entrepreneurial ventures of their own. By doing so, they not only create a source of sustainable income for themselves and their families, but also build viable businesses that have the potential to grow, to create much needed employment opportunities for others, and to innovate in key sectors where a new way of thinking is needed. So, perhaps there has never been a better time for the women entrepreneurs of Africa to shine and genuinely drive the future direction of the continent’s economic growth and prosperity.