Women, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development in Africa

  • Adaugo Pamela NwakanmaEmail author
Living reference work entry


The development agenda in Africa is one that is shifting from a rhetoric of underdevelopment and dependency to one that is focusing on the ever-present, but oft understated, role of African people in transforming the continent’s economy. In an attempt to address gender inequity and stimulate inclusive socioeconomic growth and development, women have been the target of many development initiatives in emerging economies. Several of these economic development initiatives for women are centered around financial access and entrepreneurship as avenues for inclusion and empowerment. This chapter explores the ways in which entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment intersect in theory and praxis to further enable economic development in Africa. Increasingly, there are greater interventions in women’s economic empowerment that happen at both micro and macro levels. Drawing on insights from scholars and practitioners that work at the intersection of women, entrepreneurship, and economic development, this chapter captures the varied ways in which these intersections ultimately synergize and affect change on the continent.


Africa Women Tech innovation Entrepreneurship Economic development 


  1. Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., & Robinson, J. (2001). The colonial origins of comparative development: An empirical investigation. American Economic Review, 91(5), 1369–1401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adedeji, A. (2002). Structural adjustment policies in Africa. International Social Science Journal, 51(162), 521–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anunobi, F. (2002). Women and development in Africa: From marginalization to gender inequality. African Social Science Review, 2(2), 3.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, A. (2015). Race, paternalism, and foreign aid: Evidence from U.S. public opinion. American Political Science Review, 109(1), 93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bardasi, E., Blackden, M. C., & Guzman, J. C. (2007). Gender, entrepreneurship, and competitiveness in Africa. Washington, DC: The World Bank. Accessed Sept 2019.Google Scholar
  6. Bates, C. (2017). Shea moisture’s community commerce program. The Co Report. Accessed Sept 2019.
  7. Blodgett, S. (2018). She built the largest online community for African millennial women in the world. Black Enterprise. Accessed Sept 2019.
  8. Calkin, S. (2018). Human capital in gender and development. London: Routledge. Accessed Jan 2019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Campos, F., Goldstein, M.P., & Mckenzie, D.J. (2015). Short-term impacts of formalization assistance and a bank information session on business registration and access to finance in Malawi. Impact Evaluation Series; Policy Research Working Paper; no. WPS 7183.Google Scholar
  10. Chandy, L. (2015). Why is the number of poor people in Africa increasing when Africa’s economies are growing? The Brookings Institution.
  11. Constanza, R., Hart, M., Posner, S., & Talberth, J. (2009). Beyond GDP: The need for new measures of progress (Pardee Paper No. 4). Boston: Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future.Google Scholar
  12. Crowder, M. (1964). Indirect rule: French and British style. Journal of the International African Institute, 24(3), 197–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Diop, M. (2017). Unleashing the potential of women entrepreneurs in Africa. Nasilikiza: The World Bank. Accessed Dec 2018.Google Scholar
  14. Due, J., & Gladwin, C. (1991). Impacts of structural adjustment programs on African women farmers and female-headed households. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 73(5), 1431–1439. Scholar
  15. Easterly, W. (2001). The effect of International Monetary Fund and World Bank programs on poverty (Policy, research working paper; no. WPS 2517). Washington, DC: World Bank.
  16. Easterly, W. (2006). The white man’s burden: Why the West’s efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. New York: Penguin Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ekeh, P. (1975). Colonialism and the two publics in Africa: A theoretical statement. Comparative Studies in Society and History., 17(01), 91–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ekekwe, N. (2016). Why African entrepreneurship is booming. Harvard Business Review. Accessed Dec 2018.
  19. El-Zoghbi, M. (2018). Measuring women’s financial inclusion: The 2017 findex story. Consultative Group to Assist the Poor. Accessed Nov 2018.
  20. Fanon, F. (1961). Les Damnés de la Terre. Paris: François Maspero.Google Scholar
  21. Forbes Africa. (2017). The rise of the African woman. Accessed Dec 2018.
  22. Fortmann, L. (2006). Theory and in practice: Women creating better accounts of the world. In J. Jaquette & G. Summerfield (Eds.), Women and gender equity in development theory and practice. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Ganescu, M. (2014). Entrepreneurship, a solution to improve youth employment in the European Union. Management Strategies Journal, 26(4), 580–588.Google Scholar
  24. Hombert, J., Schoar, A., Sraer, D., Thesmar, D. (2014). Can unemployment insurance spur entrepreneurial activity? NBER working paper series. Accessed Jan 2019.
  25. House-Midamba, B., & Ekechi, F. K. (1995). African market women and economic power: The role of women in African economic development (Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies; No. 174). Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  26. Ighobor, K. (2013). Africa’s youth: A “Ticking Time Bomb” or an opportunity? Africa Renewal. Accessed Dec 2018.
  27. Jackson, T. (2017). Unleashing the potential of women entrepreneurs in Africa. The World Bank Blogs.
  28. Kanji, N., Kanji, N., & Manji, F. (1991). From development to sustained crisis: Structural adjustment, equity, and health. Social Science and Medicine, 33(9), 985–993.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Khanna, T., & Palepu, K. G. (2010). Winning in emerging markets: A road map for strategy and execution. Boston: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  30. Konadu-Agyemang, K. (2000). The best of times and the worst of times: Structural adjustment programs and uneven development in Africa: The case of Ghana. The Professional Geographer, 52(3), 469–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lugalla, J. L. P. (1995). The impact of structural adjustment policies on women’s and children’s health in Tanzania. Review of African Political Economy, 22(63), 43–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mamdani, M. (1996). Citizen and subject: Contemporary Africa and the legacy of late colonialism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Michalopoulos, S., & Papaioannou, E. (2011). The long run effects of the scramble for Africa. CEPR Discussion Paper 8676.Google Scholar
  34. Mizrahi, S., & Fraser-Moleketi, G. (2015). Empowering African women: An agenda for Action: Africa gender equality index 2015. African Development Bank Group 2015, Tunis.Google Scholar
  35. Mkandawire, T., & Olukoshi, A. (1995). Issues and perspectives in the politics of structural adjustment in Africa. In T. Mkandawire & A. Olukoshi (Eds.), Between liberalisation and oppression: The politics of structural adjustment in Africa (pp. 1–18). Dakar: Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. ISBN 2869780540.Google Scholar
  36. Mkandawire, T., & Soludo, C. (2003). Introduction: Towards the broadening of development policy dialogue for Africa. In CODESRIA (Ed.), African voices on structural adjustment. Ottawa: Africa World Press.Google Scholar
  37. Mobit, M. O., & Mbella, M. E. (2016). An assessment of the effect of entrepreneurship on youth unemployment in Africa: The Cameroonian experience. Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development June 2016, 4(1), 32–43.Google Scholar
  38. Nunn, N. (2008). The long term effects of Africa’s slave trades. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 123(1), 139–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ocheni, S., & Nwankwo, B. C. (2012). Analysis of colonialism and its impact in Africa. Cross-Cultural Communication, 8(3), 46–54.Google Scholar
  40. Onimode, B. (1992). A future for Africa: Beyond the politics of adjustment. London: Earthscan Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Oranye, N. (2018). Banking in a cashless society requires African solutions for African problems. Feature Africa. Accessed Jan 2019.
  42. Parker, S. (2009). The economics of entrepreneurship. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pinelli, M. (2015). Can entrepreneurship solve the youth unemployment crisis? Huffington Post. Accessed Oct 2018.
  44. Prisco, J. (2015). The power duo making your startup dreams come true. CNN. Accessed Dec 2018.
  45. Rodney, W. (1974). How Europe underdeveloped Africa. Washington, DC: Howard University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Sadasivam, B. (1997). The impact of structural adjustment on women: A governance and human rights agenda. Human Rights Quarterly, 19, 630–665. John Hopkins University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Samans, R., & Zahidi, S. (2017). The future of jobs and skills in Africa: Preparing the region for the fourth industrial revolution. World Economic Forum Executive Briefing. Accessed Sept 2019.
  48. Schwab, K. (2016). The fourth industrial revolution: What it means, how to respond. World Economic Forum. Accessed Dec 2018.
  49. Seay, L. (2012). How not to write about Africa. Foreign Policy Magazine: Argument. Accessed Dec 2018.
  50. Singer, S., Herrington, M., & Menipaz, E. (2018). Global entrepreneurship monitor (Global report 2017/2018). London: Global Entrepreneurship Research Association.Google Scholar
  51. Thomson, M., Kentikelenis, A., & Stubbs, T. (2017). Structural adjustment programmes adversely affect vulnerable populations: A systematic-narrative review of their effect on child and maternal health. Public Health Reviews, 38, 13. Scholar
  52. Toesland, F. (2018). Women-led tech startups on the rise in Africa. Africa Renewal. Accessed Sept 2019.
  53. Toner, K. (2018). Disadvantaged girls change their communities by learning to code. CNN. Accessed Sept 2019.
  54. Unah, L. (2018). Girls code their way out of Nigeria’s slums and into the tech sector. Global Citizen. Accessed Sept 2019.
  55. Vandeveer, D. (1986). Paternalistic intervention: The moral bounds on benevolence. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wainaina, B. (2005). How to write about Africa. Granta 92: The view from Africa. Accessed Nov 2018.
  57. Watson, J. (2007). Lilla Watson. Queensland Review, 14(1), 47–47. Scholar
  58. Wee Sile, A. (2017). These developing countries have the highest rates of female entrepreneurs. CNBC. Accessed Oct 2018.
  59. World Bank. (2018a). Economic growth in Africa rebounds, but not fast enough. Accessed Jan 2019.
  60. World Bank. (2018b). An analysis of issues shaping Africa’s economic future (Africa’s Pulse, No. 18, October 2018). Washington, DC: World Bank. Accessed Jan 2019. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.Google Scholar
  61. Yahya, M. (2017). Africa’s defining challenge. Project syndicate, p. project syndicate, Aug 4, 2017. Accessed Sept 2019.

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Agnes Atia Apusigah
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Development Education Studies, Faculty of EducationUniversity for Development StudiesTamaleGhana

Personalised recommendations