Mastercard Releases Index of Women Entrepreneurs, Says Africa a World Leader in Women Business Owners

Index shows Ghana has the highest percentage of women business owners worldwide. Uganda is third overall.


Following the release of the Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) today, it was revealed that 46.4 percent of businesses in Ghana are owned by women, making it one of the top performing African countries highlighted in the index.

The MIWE is a weighted index that helps to better understand and identify factors and conditions that are most conducive to closing the gender gap among business owners in any given economy. The three factors include Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Access to Knowledge and Financial Services, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors. The Index examined 57 different economies around the globe, including Botswana, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda; with Ghana, Nigeria and Malawi as new additions.

Nigeria and Ghana scored particularly well in terms of advancement outcomes: the women entrepreneurial activity rate was 100 percent, with overall scores in this regard coming in at 62.4 percent and 59.1 percent respectively. African countries also scored highly in women labour force participation – with Malawi at 100 percent, Ghana at 96.1 percent, and Ethiopia at 86.6 percent.

South Africa excelled in sharing knowledge assets with women and providing financial access, with a score of 84.3 percent– coming in 6th out of 57 countries. Botswana followed closely with a score of 73 percent.  Botswana and South Africa were the highest scoring African countries in the Index overall with scores of 66.5 percent and 64.2 percent respectively.

When compared to other African markets surveyed Botswana leads the charge with the highest rate of Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions, at 68.1 percent, this is an increase of 2 percent from last year. Indicating that the country has positive Cultural Perceptions of Women Entrepreneurs and Quality of Governance. The continent scored highly in terms of women Financial Inclusion with South Africa at 98.7 percent, Ghana scoring 84.6 percent, and 77.1 percent in Ethiopia.

The Index results revealed that female entrepreneurs in developing countries are driven by grit and determination, along with a desire to provide for their families. The findings reinforce that women entrepreneurs are the backbone of economic growth and powerful engines of development and financial inclusion, especially in Africa.  The Index also showed an interesting contrast: women’s progress and advancement as entrepreneurs is not necessarily aligned to 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.

Women entrepreneurs in Africa and other developing markets have proven to be equally vibrant, resourceful and innovative in finding opportunities to improve their own lives as well as create a better future for their children.

“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 percent in Uganda and 67.2 percent 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, however. Women entrepreneurs even in developed nations face cultural and gender biases that restrict them from opening or expanding their own businesses.

These constraints are acting as barriers preventing women from starting businesses in the majority of the 57 countries surveyed. In New Zealand, the top ranked country overall for example, results revealed that society is less receptive towards female entrepreneurs because they are not perceived as having the same level of know-how as men. In Portugal, which ranked 6th on the Index with a score of 69.1 percent, women are not only constrained by a lack of cultural acceptance, but difficulties in getting bank loans, insurance, or trade finance. Even Botswana – which emerged as the top ranked African country on the Index at 14 with a score of 66.5 percent – has seen an increasing gender bias that acts as a barrier to women opening businesses.

This indicates that changes need to be implemented not just within society itself, but at economic, financial and political levels. “This requires collective action from public and private sector partners to implement initiatives that provide African women with the necessary education, training and mentorship to develop financial literacy to start and run successful and sustainable businesses,” Cornacchia concludes.

The full report is available here:

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