PROPOSAL TO BUILD A BETTER A NATION (WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN AFRICA)
Women entrepreneurship is a prerequisite for building a better nation. When women are entrepreneurial, society with stability is assured; her competencies in making decisions will surely influence her family’s behaviour and the society at large. Empowerment of women is essential as thought and their value systems lead to the development of a good family, a good society and a strong nation. Entrepreneurship is the willingness or ability to seek investment opportunity, mobilizing financial material and human resources to meet the needs in the area in order to manage a business to a successful end.
There are certain characteristics women entrepreneurs should possess. Every business is an adventure, whether such business succeeds or fails will depend on the ability of the entrepreneur to effectively use positive qualities and restrain negative characteristics. Some positive characteristics like being imaginative which entails a well-planned approach in order to examine and identify entrepreneurial opportunities. Women entrepreneurs should have association with knowledgeable people and contracting the right organization offering support and services. Enterprising women have further ability to work hard. Hard work is needed to build an enterprise; she has to put in a lot of physical and mental energy into the enterprise. Women entrepreneurs must have an intention to fulfil their dreams. They have to make a dream into an idea enterprise and so have to work persistently. They should have the willingness and desire to take risk the ability and proficiency to make forecast estimate and calculations. The woman should be innovative and think differently from others, she should look for gaps in the society and fill them. She must be aggressive in challenging environments, however must be courteous and have drive. She must possess the ability to manage and organise operations, information’s and resources effectively.
One of the greatest characteristics which the woman entrepreneur must possess is self- confidence. She believes in herself and not on fate, sees obstacle as challenge that must be faces squarely and conquered. She is not afraid of making decision and accepts responsibilities for them. A woman entrepreneur is a leader, motivator, manager and director. She guides people to accomplish goals and delegates duties which encourage team work in the establishment. These positive characteristics have been restrained by so many barriers to women entrepreneurship above.
Women entrepreneurship in the world especially in Africa has been a neglected topic, Women for many centuries has always been the underdog and invisible in the society. From a very early age it is instilled into the girl’s minds that their duty lies in providing services to their family. Domestic chores, sibling care and assisting the mother in household responsibilities, prepare her for the world of care taking of future generation. Self-denial, putting others before oneself, self-effacement, gentleness, sacrifice, soft-spokeness and other feminine qualities are encouraged in her upbringing. Decision making, strength of expression, articulateness, opinion formation, future career planning etc., are not qualities which are promoted to develop her in her socialization process. She is for the most part confined to an inside world and not permitted to interact with the outside world of information, knowledge and accessing various resources. The psychological effect of this kind of socialization process becomes evident later in life in her low level of confidence. Studies have shown that men have high level of confidence and women have medium level of confidence. Also, “the son preference and daughter neglect” syndrome has an extensive and deep rooted physical and mental impact on the daughters who are discriminated against.
Many socio-cultural factors have confined women to traditionally prescribed and socially acceptable roles; and without male approval, women’s so-called decisions become non- functional. In our society, marriage on the side of women looks like the greatest achievement and no matter how successful you are must aspire to get married. This mentality has caused women to do anything for marriage even ending their career. Educated women turning into house wives just to get married or stay in marriage is the order of the day.
Double roles and responsibilities limit women’s responsibilities and involvement in activities outside of the household, this is because it is traditionally perceived that women’s primary role is as a housewife or mother and men are supposed to be involved in outside activities including income generation. Another barrier to women entrepreneurship is the low value given to women’s work. Whatever tasks women perform are frequently not even considered work. If it is work, then it is not seen as worthwhile work. It is only supplementary, part- time, ad hoc and frivolous work. These prevailing social values, culture and perception tend to work as a restraint on the growth of women entrepreneurship in most society.
Most of these barriers are humanistic in nature and can be avoided to a remarkable extent by spirited efforts. Some appropriate actions for most these solutions are specific to the barrier. Their implementation will obviously encourage both practising and nascent women entrepreneurs.
Gradual change of belief systems through better education and information with emphasis on gender empowerment measures (GEM), encouragement of policies/ programs that prepare rural women to be entrepreneurs, improve gender awareness and establish gender sensitive industrial policies.
Social orientation, awareness campaign and sensitization of women in the society, equitable consideration and unbiased entrepreneurial opportunities between men and women. Family-friendly policy to allow women to manage their time more friendly and still participate in active entrepreneurial activity.
Behavioural modification and change of attitude to embrace entrepreneurial pattern of behaviour and attributes. Reinforce self-confidence in women entrepreneurs through sensitization workshops and seminars and also assigning challenging tasks.
Dissemination of information on entrepreneurship and its economic importance targeted to women. Business and technology information to be made available support for dissemination of information through network of rural NGOs, CBO and CSOs.
Encouragement of women to form groups and association in the rural areas in order to strengthen their position in villages and undertake development projects. Cooperation with existing entrepreneurial associations.
Promotion and development of institutions for support services of technical kind, establishment of special outreach in rural areas.
In some developed countries like Canada, Germany, Sweden, South Korea, United Kingdom and the United States where women entrepreneurship is being practiced have shown significant contribution of women entrepreneurship to their economy. In both formal and informal sector, women contribution to industrial development either small or medium scale production activities is substantial. This coupled with remunerative employment generating capacity enables women to fight poverty. Women entrepreneurship increase growth rate of savings by opening business bank accounts to keep their savings and their savings is likely to be applied for investment purposes across the country. Women entrepreneurship also makes contribution towards household expenditure from the proceeds of their business. This definitely would rub off well with the economy as more families now have more purchasing power to stabilize demand in the economy. Involvement of women in entrepreneurship has led to the formation of new business which leads to factor productivity increase and increase in efficiency.
The international labour organisation survey (2007) in Vietnam showed that 12% of women entrepreneurs use all or most of their profit for savings or domestic consumption as compared to 6% of the male entrepreneurs. Thus it can be seen that women’s involvement in entrepreneurship positively impacts their families and their national economy. Women entrepreneurship brings asset to the global market, they create employment because any women owned business employs people to help out, they reduce rural-urban migration. Entrepreneurship makes the women to be economically, socially and politically empowered thereby promoting sustainable development. Women entrepreneurship can be developed in so many ways so as to ensure greater participation in entrepreneurial activities.
1) Consider women as a specific target group for all developmental programmers
2) Better educational facilities and schemes should be extended to women folk from government part.
3) Encourage women’s participation in decision making
4) Vocational training to be extended to women entrepreneurs.
5) Skill development to be done in universities and higher institutions.
6) Counselling through the aid of committed NGOs, psychologists, managerial experts and technical personnel should be provided to existing and emerging women entrepreneurs
7) Ministry of women affairs should assist widows and single mothers in their trade and provide business guidance.
8) Women training programme should be organized and taught to encourage more passive women entrepreneurs.
9) More governmental schemes to motivate women entrepreneurs to engage in small scale and large-scale business ventures.
10) Financial institutions should permit by statute to extend purely trade related finance to women entrepreneurs.
Women entrepreneurship in Africa is very essential in economy development as the percentage of women is greater than that of men and if such privilege is given to women will bring tremendous change in the nation. Women are known as organizers, coordinators and planners in the family and if such energy is channelled towards entrepreneurship I believe will make a strong and independent nation.