Women micro-entrepreneurs and sustainable economic development in Nigeria
Women micro-entrepreneurs represent a vast, untapped source of economic growth in the developing world, and offer new and different solutions to management, organisation, and business problems. For these reasons, it is important to study the challenges that they face, and find strategies that can ensure their sustainability and growth. In Nigeria, rural women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, as in Gombe where they face severe constraints in their entrepreneurial efforts. Through the use of a literature review, this study: examines the status of women’s entrepreneurship in Nigeria, and Gombe in particular; outlines the profile of women entrepreneurs; explores the difficulties rural women entrepreneurs face in Gombe; and suggests measures for uplifting the status of women entrepreneurs in the region.
The paper identifies several trends that women entrepreneurs in Gombe will have to adapt to in the near future, including: prevailing business uncertainty; market failures; disruptive technology; the growth of social networks; and a lack of skill acquisition centres. To rise to these challenges, enabling environments must be created that promote and enhance entrepreneurial best practice, and in so doing produce a multitude of co-benefits including greater empowerment, economic growth, and resilience. However, a number of factors stand in the way. Women in the region have disproportionately low access to credit, savings, networks, markets, training, and education, while traditional and cultural values and beliefs also contribute to inhibiting women’s entrepreneurial activities (none more so than the burden placed on them with regard to family and household obligations).
Next, the paper briefly profiles a number of measures and initiatives taken by the Nigerian government and the Nigerian banking sector to improve the position of women entrepreneurs, including the establishment of community banks, credit schemes, and small and medium enterprise investment funds. Ensuring rural women micro-entrepreneurs have access to micro-credit and savings schemes is vital if they are to play the role they are capable of, namely improving the socio-economic status of themselves, their families, and their communities. Moreover, government is identified as the most influential actor in ensuring an enabling environment for rural women micro-entrepreneurs in Gombe and beyond, and there is a need for more action in educating rural youth in their potential for conducting entrepreneurial activities. The capacity of the Rotational Savings and Credit Association (ROSCA) should be enhanced, and media also have a key role to play in normalising and enhancing the status of women as entrepreneurs, and so combat traditional gender stereotypes and beliefs.