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Holding up the sky – entrepreneurial data puts Africa’s women on top, globally

From ambitious teens taking on the world, to tech innovators breaking boundaries, the entrepreneurial spirit of African women is already a force to reckon with. Access to hard data now highlights narrative-shifting evidence of that entrepreneurial activity. The 2020 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) ranks Uganda (39.6 per cent), Botswana (38.5 per cent) and Ghana (36.5 per cent) as the world’s top three economies for the highest concentration of women businesses owners.

Nigeria, Malawi, South Africa, Angola, Algeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Egypt have also featured in the top-100 index. The data behind the study signals that women’s entrepreneurship is outpacing the overall workforce in Africa, with that growth curve expected to surge. The Index’s benchmark indicator is calculated as a percentage of total businesses owners, and all three countries have grown their percentages since 2019. Apart from Botswana, African countries captured in the report showed improved MIWE scores since the last edition.

“South Africa displayed the biggest growth with a 7 per cent increase. Botswana however has also grown the number of women entrepreneurs since last year (36 per cent in 2019 to 38.5 per cent in 2020), earning the country the second spot globally and displacing Ghana who now comes in third,” read the report in part. However, many women-owned businesses were not captured in the data in years earlier.

According to Mastercard, the results also point to a strong representation of women business owners in Malawi, Angola, and Nigeria, despite the economic and social challenges facing their entrepreneurial ecosystems. It is perhaps no surprise then that Africa’s entrepreneurs are also the most confident in the world in their ability and skills to start a business, according to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report.

People in Malawi, for example, feel twice as self-assured about launching a start-up as those in the UK. The high scores are driven by “a low fear of business failure, an absence of alternative income sources, and an eager commitment to contribute to their communities.”

A high regard for risk-taking, innovativeness, individuality, and creativeness in entrepreneurship is prevalent in Uganda, Nigeria and Angola. The MIWE report also pointed to an issue of concern. It noted the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs around the world, with 87 per cent saying they have been adversely affected.

In Ghana, for instance, a sectoral breakdown reveals that a large proportion of women-owned businesses (85.1 per cent) operate in highly impacted sectors, compared to 50.5 per cent for men. In Uganda, 61 per cent of women-led small businesses failed to generate income even as lockdown measures were eased.

“Our findings beckon us to consider the cost of untapped potential in women as contributors, not just in business and society, but on the national and global scale, as we chart the path of post-Covid-19 recovery across Africa. This is especially important as more women-owned businesses will likely be impacted by the pandemic making the support through incentives, necessary tools, mentorship and digital inclusion platforms even more urgent,” said Ifeoma Dozie, Director, Marketing and Communications, Sub-Saharan Africa, Mastercard.

Source: Seth Onyango|bird|Africa.

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