According to a World-Bank report, the rate of female entrepreneurship in Africa is higher than any other region in the world. Another report published by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, states that Africa also leads the world in the number of women starting businesses, male and female entrepreneurs going head to head in numbers. In fact, in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Zambia, female entrepreneurs outnumber the men.
So the question is: have there always been women entrepreneurs, or is there now a larger number of them in business? The answer lies a little bit in both. African women constitute 70 percent of the informal economy and one-third of Africa’s formal small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are owned by women. This essentially means that where women were once content to play quietly away from in smaller fields, away from attention, the modern-day female entrepreneur displays a keener sense of business savvy, is more exposed, and is equipped with more tools to further amplify and grow her business.
Every city in Africa has a number of these women who are breaking boundaries and redefining what it means to be female entrepreneurs. Whether it’s Regina Agyare Honu with Soronko Solutions in Ghana, Temi Giwa with LifeBank NG in Nigeria, or Monica Musonda with Java Foods in Zambia – the indomitable spirit of enterprise is evident. In a bid to solve challenges and create solutions to everyday problems, these women are building sustainable businesses.
Another interesting element in the rise of female entrepreneurs is the fact that now, more than at any time in the past, there are more women operating what was hitherto assumed to be male-only professions. It is therefore not surprising to see successful female coders, mechanics, painters, furniture makers, and even, drivers. Take the inspiring case of Chioma Osuoha, a 25-year-old ambitious Uber driver-partner.
A dreamer with even bigger dreams to change the world, Chioma is a phenomenal example of what women can achieve when they apply their minds to innovative business ideas that can transform society and solve issues like the way transport is used in congested cities such as Nigeria.
“The idea that I could be an Uber driver-partner came through one day when I requested a ride through the Uber app, and to my utmost surprise, when the car arrived, it was a woman driving it. I was curious as to how a woman could be a driver in Nigeria, prior to that, I had never seen anything like that before. It was such a fascinating and empowering idea that by the end of that trip, I had signed up to be an Uber driver-partner.”
A second-class upper graduate of Sociology from the University of Lagos, Chioma, like many graduates in Nigeria, experienced challenges in finding employment. According to her: “I never thought that I would be an entrepreneur or partner with a global company like Uber, I just wanted to do a 9-5. But when a job wasn’t forthcoming, I decided to create my own business, and I’m glad I did. With Uber, I can decide how many hours I want to work in a day, I get to meet a lot of interesting people, which increases my people management skills, and I can equally focus on my sandwich-making business, which brings in additional income for me.”
For Chioma and a lot of other female entrepreneurs in Africa, partnering with companies like Uber, with their transparent and flexible structures, are making it easier for more women to start and adapt to the world of business. As more women are encouraged to thrive as entrepreneurs and build sustainable businesses, socio-economic challenges like access to affordable healthcare, traffic congestion and food production and management, will hopefully become a thing of the past.