Profiting from Parity: Unlocking the Potential of Women’s Business in Africa

WorldBank Group(2019). Profiting from Parity : Unlocking the Potential of Women’s Business in Africa.


Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world, with approximately 42 percent of the non-agricultural labor force classified as self-employed or employers. Yet most entrepreneurs are unable to grow their businesses beyond small-scale subsistence operations, impeding their contribution to poverty reduction and shared prosperity. This is particularly so for women. This new report, “Profiting from Parity: Unlocking the Potential of Women’s Businesses in Africa”, produced by the World Bank Group’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab and the Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation Global Practice, seeks to focus attention on the challenges that Africa’s women entrepreneurs face and identify practical solutions. The report draws on new, high-quality, household and firm level data to present the clearest evidence to date about the barriers to growth and profitability faced by women entrepreneurs. It goes beyond looking at contextual, endowment and household restrictions in isolation, and, through deep-dive analysis, uncovers new evidence on how social norms, networks and household-level decision making contribute to business performance. It analyzes how they are linked to each other and to women’s strategic business decisions. The report offers policy makers evidence based guidance on designing programs to target multiple obstacles and improve the performance of women entrepreneurs.

Competing priorities: Women’s microenterprises and household relationships

Sophia Friedson-Ridenour, Rachael S. Pierotti. Competing priorities: Women’s microenterprises and household relationships, World Development Volume 121, 2019, Pages 53-62.


Recent studies have suggested that women’s business decisions are influenced by members of their household, especially their spouse, and that these intrahousehold dynamics contribute to gender gaps in entrepreneurship outcomes. This in-depth qualitative study among micro-entrepreneurs in urban Ghana sought to understand the connections between women’s businesses and their households’ management of economic resources. The findings show that women’s business decisions are influenced by: 1) a desire to reinforce their partner’s responsibilities as a primary provider; 2) attempts to fulfil normative expectations of meeting the daily basic-needs of the family; and 3) a need to prepare for long-term security. To reinforce their husband’s responsibilities as a provider, women hid income and savings, and sometimes explicitly limited business growth. To ensure their ability to smooth household consumption and respond to emergencies, women prioritized savings over business investment. And, to plan for their long-term security, women opted for cautious business investment, instead maintaining pressure on their partner to meet current needs and investing in children and property for the future. Previous studies document gender differences in microenterprise business management. This research builds on those studies by examining how intrahousehold inequalities affect women’s business decisions. The findings demonstrate the contextual importance of social relations for understanding women’s business decisions. More broadly, the findings illustrate that interpersonal interactions concerning the management of economic resources are an integral part of how household members negotiate their rights and responsibilities in relation to each other.