This blog is co-written by Development Gateway’s Aminata Camara, Senior Consultant; Kathryn Alexander, Senior Program Advisor; and MCC‘s Agnieszka Rawa, Managing Director of Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI).
On June 28th, 2021, MCC, USAID, Microsoft, Thinkroom, and Development Gateway will be co-hosting a workshop to share, validate, inform, and build on recent research on the data and digital technology needs, profiles, and life stages of W-SMEs in Côte d’Ivoire. Hosted in French, and targeting primarily Ivorian participants, the workshop will further enable us to share, validate, and gain local input on the results of DG’s work, to ensure next steps are truly actionable and useful for W-SMEs.
(image credit: We-Fi Secretariat, flickr: https://flickr.com/photos/we-fi/albums)
The creation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is a promising pathway for combating poverty and creating employment in the Sub-Saharan African context. Enhancing the capacity of women to run and grow successful businesses is an important focus of women’s economic empowerment initiatives, as women continue to be at a disadvantage for accessing mentorship, training, capital, and support networks. In order to support women’s empowerment, Côte d’Ivoire has placed the promotion of women’s entrepreneurship at the heart of its development strategies. However, this initiative faces structural obstacles such as socio-cultural and gender role structures, and women’s poor access to the financial resources (loans, grants, etc.) needed to start and consolidate activities.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) selected Development Gateway (DG) to assess the information, data, and digital technology needs of registered women-led or women-owned small and medium enterprises (W-SMEs) in Côte d’Ivoire. The work aimed to characterize registered W-SMEs in Côte d’Ivoire; understand their access to business information and data; document digital tools and technology needs; and identify existing government, development partner, and private sector engagements and investments that support them. Building on experience strengthening data ecosystems by focusing on human capital, access to digital tools, and better data policies through Data Collaboratives for Local Impact (DCLI) investments, MCC plans to use the results of this study along with the creativity, local input, and experience of an Ivorian partner to finalize the design and oversee the implementation of a Women’s Data Lab and Network (WDLN) that will help W-SMEs thrive.
Between December 2020 and January 2021, DG collected insights from key informants and knowledgeable experts (W-SMEs, hubs/incubators, government, and development partners) in the W-SMEs space, which helped to further identify and articulate themes and opportunities for increasing data use by W-SMEs. DG also administered a web-based survey that reached nearly 800 W-SMEs across the country. In line with learning best practices, DG also shared back the results of the survey with the survey participants in April 2021, along with a summary of resources currently available to W-SMEs in Côte d’Ivoire.
In Côte d’Ivoire, W-SMEs represented 20% of SMEs created in 2016 (Promotion of Female Entrepreneurship in Côte d’Ivoire: State of Premises and Prospects, International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies, September 2018). Additionally, 21.7% of business owners are women, but only 28% of sole proprietors are women (Snapshot women SMEs in CIV and ecosystem, MCC). Overall, the informal sector is the largest provider of employment with 91.8% of jobs ( Promotion of Female Entrepreneurship in Côte d’Ivoire: State of Premises and Prospects, International Journal of Innovation and Applied Studies, September 2018). Women are overrepresented in the informal sector, running 62% of unregistered businesses (Ibid.). SMEs are often classified as agricultural or non-agricultural, and women entrepreneurs are also overrepresented in non-agricultural self-employment (Snapshot women SMEs in CIV and ecosystem, MCC). According to Agence Côte d’Ivoire PME (CI-PME), Ivorian W-SMEs operate most heavily in trade, services, and agro-business.
As the W-SME sector attempts to formalize, having greater access to public information can help W-SMEs to identify business opportunities, engage in government contracting, and create new innovations by developing value-add services using open data. However, for these ambitions to be achieved, further support is required in building the skills, access, and resources for W-SMEs to find, analyze, and use data in their business. Additionally, the availability of skilled data analysts and/or data scientists in Côte d’Ivoire is limited, resulting in a human resource gap that may challenge many W-SMEs. Recent initiatives, such as the Des Chiffres et Des Jeunes program (an MCC DCLI-funded investment) have invested in building data science skills, with a particular emphasis on reaching young women. W-SMEs need information on how to access data or information, and where to find support such as technical experts who can help develop or improve their business.
Profile of W-SME Owner or Founder
There is no one typical profile of women entrepreneurs overall. Women of all ages are active in entrepreneurship. However, when it comes to the formal business side, a more specific profile emerges. W-SME managers or founders are generally women with a diploma or university degree and prior professional experience.
“There is no typical profile, women are educated, uneducated, and do not always have a notion of business development. One of our members is educated and passionate about agro-processing and needs technical support. There’s another one who just has the baccalaureate and is passionate about cosmetics. One who comes back from France and who launches her black doll production unit” – Interviewee
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