Majority Of Women Are Smallholder Farmers, Petty Traders

By Caroline Uliwa

A majority of women entrepreneurs in Africa still engage in small-scale farming and petty businesses, as they continue to battle customs and traditions that prohibit them from owning assets, especially land, and therefore lack collateral to access credit.


Many of them lack financial literacy due to low levels or lack of education. Even where they can get financing, there is a growing number of women-led medium-sized businesses that face bottlenecks when trying to expand.

In Tanzania, for example, even with the growth in financial inclusion — from 15 per cent in 2009 to 58 per cent in 2013, which is huge — women still face the challenges of access to finance and markets.

Irene Mlola, operations director at Financial Sector Deepening Tanzania, speaking at the recent Women Advancing Africa (WAA) annual conference in Dar es Salaam, said the two biggest obstacles cited in accessing finance are collateral requirements and prohibitive interest rates.

A survey by the Graca Machel Trust and the Women in Finance Network in 2016 to determine the growth barriers to women entrepreneurs in East Africa found that out of 443 respondents who had applied for a loan, just over a quarter of them succeeded.

 Financial inclusion

To push for more financial inclusion, Maureen Kwilasa, a financial inclusion advisor with Southern Africa Care asked African governments to commit to help halve the gender gap in accessing finances by 2021.

The meeting asked the Graca Machel Trust to create a gender-sensitive pan-African co-operative investment fund modelled around the South African Stockvels. Stokvels are clubs of twelve or more people serving as rotating credit unions or saving scheme, where members contribute fixed sums of money to a central fund on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.

They also called for a disruptive platform where finacnail technology will ensure market access and linkages to allow women entrepreneurs to market their products on the continent. The Trust will work with government and financial stakeholders to promote financial literacy.

Tanzania’s Vice-President Samia Suluhu praised WAA as a platform to identify solutions and pitch business ideas. “That will ensure that everyone lives in dignity and is not left by the development bandwagon,” she said.


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