Last month marked the release of the 2018 Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE), a report that tracks the progress and achievement of women entrepreneurs and business owners in 57 countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America. The data showed many things, for instance, that almost half (46.4%) of businesses in Ghana are owned by women. This makes the West African country one of the top performing African countries highlighted in the index. South Africa excelled in sharing providing financial access to women, with a score of 84.3%.
The objective of the MIWE is to better understand and identify factors and conditions that are most conducive to closing the gender gap among business owners, globally. The three factors include Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Access to Knowledge and Financial Services, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors. The African countries surveyed included Botswana, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda as well as with Ghana, Nigeria and Malawi.
Nigeria and Ghana scored particularly well in terms of advancement outcomes. Here, the women entrepreneurial activity rate was 100%, with overall scores in this regard coming in at 62.4% and 59.1% respectively. African countries also scored highly in women labour force participation – with Malawi at 100%, Ghana at 96.1%, and Ethiopia at 86.6%.
South Africa excelled in providing financial access to women, with a score of 84.3%, coming in 6th out of 57 countries. Botswana followed closely with a score of 73%. Botswana and South Africa were the highest scoring African countries in the Index overall with scores of 66.5% and 64.2% respectively.
Botswana furthermore leads the charge with the highest rate of Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions (68.1%), a 2% increase since last year. The continent scored highly in terms of women Financial Inclusion with South Africa at 98.7%, Ghana scoring 84.6%, and 77.1% in Ethiopia.
The Index also showed an interesting contrast: women’s progress and advancement as entrepreneurs are not necessarily aligned with the pace of their own country’s economic growth and wealth. In fact, the highest rates of ownership are seen in developing economies where entrepreneurship is typically necessity-driven.
“Botswana, Ghana and Uganda shine as examples of women’s determination to provide for themselves and their families and Africa excels at creating strong women entrepreneurs with the drive to succeed even in the face of financial, regulatory or technical constraints,” says Beatrice Cornacchia, Head of Marketing and Communications, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.
An interesting outcome of the Index is that cultural perceptions of women entrepreneurs in Africa are predominantly positive – at 69.1% in Uganda and 67.2% in Nigeria, this is well above their Middle Eastern counterparts.
According to the Index, some women’s inclination towards business ownership may be undermined by limited access to education, financial and entrepreneurial opportunities. These are by no means only African – or developing – countries challenges. Women entrepreneurs even in developed nations face cultural and gender biases that restrict them from opening or expanding their own businesses.