Challenges and Obstacles Facing WomenEntrepreneurs: The Case of NigeriaEmerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Individual Ass...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                           2Emerging Entrepreneurship in Af...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                            3Emerging Entrepreneurship in A...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                         4Emerging Entrepreneurship in Afri...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                            5Emerging Entrepreneurship in A...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                           6Emerging Entrepreneurship in Af...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                         7Emerging Entrepreneurship in Afri...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                     8Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: ...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                       9Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa...
Individual Assignment: s1062196                                                    10Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: ...
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Challenges of Women Entrepreneurs in Nigeria 2011


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A paper I wrote for my MSc degree course, Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and Obstacles in 2011.

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  • well explained and have learnt alot
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  • Hi Sasiya, this is indeed very useful, brief and well written. I am working on a similar project( at the institute of development studies, Sussex University) with a focus on the impact of the free trade system on women in the agricultural sector. will be glad if you can share more materials as you are well positioned as a market researcher. Please kindly reach me at so i could have your contact too.
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  • Thank you very much. I'm glad that my paper can contribute knowledge to the world ;)
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  • it is a rich source of information: learning more about women in busines
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Challenges of Women Entrepreneurs in Nigeria 2011

  1. 1. Challenges and Obstacles Facing WomenEntrepreneurs: The Case of NigeriaEmerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Individual AssignmentUniversity of EdinburghBy Sasiya Supprakit
  2. 2. Individual Assignment: s1062196 2Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and Obstacles Challenges and Obstacles Facing Women Entrepreneurs: The Case of NigeriaI. Introduction Women entrepreneurs have become increasingly important as they makeinfluential impact in global economies and businesses today (NFWBO, 1998; Woldieand Adersua, 2004). A growing number of women entrepreneurs rapidly continues indeveloping countries including Nigeria (OECD, 1998; Woldie and Adersua, 2004).Regardless of their impacts and contributions, women generally have obstacles inbeing entrepreneurs since it is a non-traditional occupation for women. Similar toother countries in Africa, Nigeria, a western-African country with a fast-growingbusiness opportunity, is still considered to be a traditional society where it believesthat women should not take a major role in business activities (Zakaria, 2001; Mordi,Simpson, and Singh, 2010). Given that there are already certain difficulties inperforming entrepreneurial activities in Nigeria, women entrepreneurs face evengreater challenges due to cultural and traditional beliefs. With such constraints, thispaper has an objective to explore major challenges that women entrepreneurs face inNigeria. This paper is organised as follows. The first section identifies the concept ofentrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs. The second section gives backgroundinformation of women entrepreneurs in Nigeria. The third section focuses on threemajor challenges faced by Nigerian women entrepreneurs. The next section presentslimitations in this paper. Finally, conclusion summarises the problems and suggestssolutions for women entrepreneurs in Nigeria.II. The Concept of Entrepreneur and Women Entrepreneurs Although entrepreneur has multiple definitions in different researches and studies,it can be identified as “one who undertakes a commercial enterprise and who is anorganisational creator and innovator (Gartner, 1990; Gartner et al., 2004; Mordi,Simpson, and Singh, 2010); one who prospects for or exploits opportunities and whohas a tenacity to face challenges” (Winn, 2005; Mordi, Simpson, and Singh, 2010:7).Entrepreneurs commonly involve creativity and innovation, including the ability tosee opportunities when other people cannot see them. Entrepreneurs are committed inentrepreneurship, which is the process of starting a new business venture (Rosa,2011).
  3. 3. Individual Assignment: s1062196 3Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and Obstacles Women entrepreneurs are merely entrepreneurs who are females. According toOkafor and Mordi (2010: 44), “women entrepreneurs are simply women thatparticipate in total entrepreneurial activities, who take the risks involved in combiningresources together in a unique way so as to take advantage of the opportunityidentified in their immediate environment through production of goods and services.”Unique characteristics of women entrepreneurs include adaptability, innovativeness,creativity, strength, accountability, managerial skills, and credit risk. Womenentrepreneurs fight against ‘glass ceiling’ as they desire for independence andfreedom for their career (Okafor and Mordi, 2010). The main differences betweenmale entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurs are the problems that they face inparticipating in entrepreneurial activities. While women entrepreneurs face commoneconomical and business environmental issues that male entrepreneurs experience,they also have to deal with issues such as inequality and sexism. Under suchcircumstances, these can prevent women entrepreneurs to maximize their productivityand hinder their business opportunities.III. Women Entrepreneurships in Nigeria There is a rising number of entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Opportunities are rising indifferent sectors including agriculture, textile, transportation, and information andtechnology (Martin, 2010). According to a study, “The Role of Cultural Values inUnderstanding the Challenges Faced by Female Entrepreneurs in Nigeria,” it presentsthat there is a positive correlation between increased gross domestic product [GDP]and entrepreneurial activity (McClelland et al., 2005; Mordi, Simpson, and Singh,2010). Since the CIA the World Fact Book reports that Nigeria has a high GDPgrowth from 2007 to 2010, entrepreneurial activities also increases (CIA- The WorldFact Book, 2011). Women entrepreneurs also contribute to the high economic growth, as Nigerianwomen owned about 25-30 percent of registered businesses (Halkias et al., 2011). Theindustrial sector in Nigeria has come to be dominated by small-scale enterprises,which constitute 66 percent of all industrial establishments (UNIDO, 2001), and themajority of this sector is female entrepreneurs (Aderemi et al., 2008; Mordi, Simpson,and Singh, 2010). Even though women constitute more than 50 percent of thepopulation in Nigeria (Okafor and Mordi, 2010), the important roles that femaleentrepreneurs play in the Nigerian economy has not been fully realised because theyare still largely hidden within the informal sector (Aderemi et al., 2008; Mordi,
  4. 4. Individual Assignment: s1062196 4Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and ObstaclesSimpson, and Singh, 2010). Informal sector is characterised “as consisting of unitsengaged in the production of goods or services with the primary objective ofgenerating employment and incomes to the persons concerned. These units typicallyoperate at a low level of organization, with little or no division between labour andcapital as factors of production” (UNECA, 2008:1). Struggling in unequal opportunityand traditional society, women are still yet being exploited. The book StructuralAdjustment and African Women Farmers suggests the problem of women exploitationas it mentions, “since national development plan do not consider women’s problemsas deserving serious commitment in terms of allocating scare resources to them, thistrend has resulted in women’s continuous exploitation in their struggle to cater to theirfamilies and themselves.” (Gladwin, 1991: 129). Despite their hardships, Nigerian women start their own businesses because theyneed to raise income for their families as it states, “(w)hile women in Nigeria aregenerally considered to be at the bottom of the poverty ladder (Iheduru, 2002), theywere engaged in the country’s commercial activities in the pre-colonial era for variousreasons, one of which was to supplement their family’s income” (Akinwumi, 2000;Halkias et al., 2011). Other reasons that women entrepreneurs emerged because of thehigh unemployment rate, 4.9% in 2007(CIA- The World Fact Book, 2011) andinformal discrimination, according to Remi-Alarape et al. (2009), “As a developingcountry where women are often under-utilized, self-employment is sought as a meansto alleviate poverty, unemployment and gender based occupational segregation”(Mordi, Simpson, and Singh, 2010: 6). This trend of Nigerian women engaging inentrepreneurial activity still seems to be growing in the future as women seekindependence and career growth.IV. Challenges Faced by Women entrepreneurs in Nigeria In spite of their contribution to the economic growth, women still face numerouschallenges in being entrepreneurs in Nigeria. The major challenges are explored indifferent academic papers, which can be divided into three main categories: culturalboundaries, lack of access to finance, and inferior educational background.Cultural boundaries Cultural beliefs and traditions still remain as obstacles for women in beingentrepreneurs in Nigeria. As in many African countries, Nigeria holds conservativevalues and traditional customs in doing business activities. Entrepreneurial activity orbusiness is recognised to be an occupation for men, whereas women should stay home
  5. 5. Individual Assignment: s1062196 5Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and Obstaclesand be housewives; “…gender expectations that women should be humble andmodest and, through the priority given their roles as wives and mothers, that theyshould take lesser role in business or incoming activities” (Zakaria, 2001; Mordi,Simpson, and Singh, 2010:6). Nigeria is also a patriarchal society as it is mentioned,“the asymmetry and ascendancy of males over females in the labour market areclearly seen in patriarchal communities, where as in Nigeria there is a large powerdistance and high masculinity” (Hoftede, 1980; Mordi, Simpson, and Singh, 2010:9). Such cultural beliefs create barriers for Nigerian women entrepreneurs. Accordingto Ayogu (1990), “…women are groaning under unjust culture, beliefs andoverbearing influence of a male dominated society especially in Nigeria wherewomen are denied access to property and land ownership” (Okafor and Amalu,2010:67). Stereotypes in women and traditions create fewer opportunities for them togrow in their career and entrepreneurship; “Even when Nigerian women gain accessto a managerial career like their male counterparts, they face additional problems(Obbe, 1980). In Nigerian culture, the traditional female role is still highly regarded,and such qualities as subservience, supportive, and submissiveness meet withapproval” (Woldie and Adersua, 2004:80). In addition to the aforementioned issues, women also hold a lot of familyresponsibilities. Since they are believed to be the ones who take care of children, itgives them a great challenge in becoming entrepreneurs and at the same timeperforming women tasks. According to one of the women entrepreneurs in Lagos, shesays, “As a married women I cannot spend a lot of time with my children because ofmy business, it is hard; men in Nigeria do not often help out with the kids” (Woldieand Adersua, 2004:86).Lack of access to finance Another major challenge that women entrepreneurs experience is the lack ofaccess to finance. It is statistically shown that women, constituting half of theNigerian population, “have remained in the bottom 30 percent of the poorest citizens”(Woldie and Adersua, 2004:84). Because of poverty, women often do not have capitalrequired to start their businesses. According to the report Framework for a Strategy toSupport Women Entrepreneurs in Nigeria, “women typically do not possess the kindof tangible assets banks require in order to lend money” (cited in Halkias et al., 2011:225). Even though Nigerian women approximately own 25-30 percent of registeredbusinesses, only 10-15 percent have access to bank credits (Halkias et al., 2011).
  6. 6. Individual Assignment: s1062196 6Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and Obstacles In addition to lack of tangible assets, women also face sexism and genderdiscrimination in attempting to acquire loans and credits. Mordi (2010), Simpson(2010) and Singh (2010:9) state, “In terms of finance, banks in Nigeria have beenfound to operate a binary loan and credit grant process which raise barriers for womenin terms of granting loans, partly because they are less likely to have the necessarycollateral or important family ties (Hisrich and Ozturk, 1999; McElwee and Al-Riyami, 2003; O’Neil and Viljoen, 2001) and partly due to gender stereotypes thatfavour men” (Kinbanja and Munene, 2009). Microfinance banks are the currentsource for entrepreneurship in Nigeria. However, women still face difficulties due tolack of proper business plans, “In an ongoing research conducted recently, it wasdiscovered that male to female application and approval by MFB are in the ratio 65%to 35%” (Nigerian Woman, 2010).Inferior educational background Africa is known for its poor and unequal opportunities for education. This is alsonot a surprising case for women in Nigeria. Lack of educational background is alsoanother barrier for women entrepreneurs. Halkias (2011), Nwajiuba (2011),Karkiolakis (2011), and Caracatsanis (2011:222) state, “Providing the majority ofAfrica’s labor, women’s productivity is hindered by widespread inequality ineducation as well as unequal access to land and productive inputs.” Men tend toreceive more education and training than women. Therefore, they have moreknowledge in operating businesses and entrepreneurial activities in Nigeriancompetitive market. This argument is presented in this statement, “womenentrepreneurs in Nigeria are often prevented from running competitive businesses bytheir relatively low education and skill levels, which generally limit their access to thevarious support services” (Woldie and Adersua, 2004:79). A Nigerian womenentrepreneur also expresses from her experience, “As women, we receive lesseducation and training than men, this puts us in a disadvantaged position” (Woldieand Adersua, 2004:86). Inferior educational background to men is another crucialobstacle that prevents women to become successful entrepreneurs.V. Limitations Since there are still few academic research papers and studies focusing onwomen entrepreneurs in Nigeria, this paper also has its limitations. This paper mainlyselected the three major challenges that Nigerian women entrepreneurial commonlyexperience according to the research. However, there are still some other challenges
  7. 7. Individual Assignment: s1062196 7Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and Obstaclesthat should be explored in greater length and details including poverty, sexualharassment, access to technology, lack of opportunities for expansion, informaldiscrimination and etc. (Woldie and Adersua, 2004). With 2,000-word limit, it is notpossible to further dealt with these issues. The future research can possibly studyopportunities and other aforementioned challenges that both Nigerian women andmen entrepreneurs have. In addition, it can also study in depth on successfulentrepreneurial experiences of Nigerian women entrepreneurs and how they overcometheir obstacles. This will certainly be beneficial to both academic research andentrepreneurial practice.VI. Conclusion In conclusion, women in Nigeria still have a trend to continuously becomeentrepreneurs regardless of the major challenges they face: cultural boundaries, lackof access to finance and inferior educational background. It is also foreseeable thatwomen are changing their traditional roles as “Most women are now operating as de-facto heads of households in settings and a number of these women are involved inentrepreneurship and business management in order to provide income for theirfamily/home keeping” (Okafor and Mordi, 2010: 44). As women create greaterimpact in the economic performance, organizations are created to support womenentrepreneurs such as The Country Women Association of Nigeria (COWAN), whichhas the purpose to promote welfare of poor women in agricultural and economicdecision making (Halkias et al., 2011). There should be more support and services toassist women in overcoming the business challenges. These services should includeaccess to know-how, credit, and entrepreneurship education and training. Withassistance, women can enhance their potential to create economic impact and createjob opportunities; they can become the key to solve poverty in Nigeria in the future(Halkias et al., 2011). BibliographyAderemi, H.O., IIori, M.O., Siyanbola, W.O., Adegbite, S.A. and Abereijo, I.O.
  8. 8. Individual Assignment: s1062196 8Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and Obstacles (2008), “An assessment of the choice and performance of women entrepreneurs in technological and non-technological enterprises in South- Western Nigeria”, African Journal of Business Management, Vol. 2 No. 10, pp. 165-76.Akinwumi, O. (2000), “Women entrepreneurs in Nigeria”, Africa Update Newsletter, (Nigerian Culture and Society), available at:, Women Entrepreneurs [accessed 10 February 2011].Ayogu , E., (1990). Literacy for Women: A Development Priority, The Guardian, 10. p.8.CIA - The World Factbook. (2011). CIA - The World Factbook. [ONLINE] Available at: the-worldfactbook/geos/ni.html. [Accessed 12 February 2011].Gartner, W.B. (1990), “What are we talking about when we talk about entrepreneurship?”, Journal of Business Venturing, Vol. 5, pp. 15-28.Gartner, W.B., Shaver, K.G., Carter, N.M. and Reynolds, P.D. (2004), The Handbook of Entrepreneurial Dynamics, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.Gladwin, C. H. (1991). Structural Adjustment and African Women Farmers (Center for African Studies, Carter lecture series). illustrated edition Edition. University Press of Florida.Halkias, D., Nwajiuba, C., Harkiolakis, N., and Caracatsanis, S.M. (2011). Challenges Facing Women Entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Management Research Review. 34 (2), p.221-235.Hisrich, R.D. and Ozturk, S.A. (1999), “Women entrepreneurs in a developing economy”, The Journal of Management Development, Vol. 18, pp. 114-24.Hofstede, G. (1980), Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work- Related Values, Sage, London.Iheduru, N.G. (2002), “Women entrepreneurship and development: the gendering of Microfinance in Nigeria”, paper presented at the 8th International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women, July 21-26, Makerere University, Kampala-Uganda, available at: women.html (accessed 10 February, 2011).Kinbanja, G.M. and Munene, J. (2009), “Finance and performance of small medium
  9. 9. Individual Assignment: s1062196 9Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and Obstacles Size enterprises (SMEs)”, Journal of African Business, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 105-21.Martin, A.T., (2010). 15 Fastest Growing Business Opportunities in Nigeria | Expert Advice for starting a successful Business from Scratch. 15 Fastest Growing Business Opportunities in Nigeria | Expert Advice for starting a successful Business from Scratch. [ONLINE] Available at: growing-business-opportunities-in-nigeria/. [Accessed 10 February 2011].McClelland, E., Swail, J., Bell, J. and Ibbotson, P. (2005), “Following the pathway of Female entrepreneurs: a six country investigation”, International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, Vol. 11, pp. 84-107.McElwee, G. and Al-Riyami, R. (2003), “Women entrepreneurs in Oman: some barriers to success”, Career Development International, Vol. 7 No. 8, pp. 339-46.Mordi, C., Simpson, R., and Singh, S. (2010). The Role of Cultural Values in Understanding the Challenges Faced by Female Entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Gender in Management: An International Journal. 25 (1), p5-21.National Foundation of Women Business Owners (1998), Women Entrepreneurs Are a Growing Trend, National Foundation of Women Business Owners, Washington, DC.Nigerian Women Agro-entrepreneurship Development: Issues and Challenges | ILove Purple. 2010. Nigerian Women Agro-entrepreneurship Development: Issues and Challenges | I Love Purple. [ONLINE] Available at: issues-and-challenges.php. [Accessed 14 February 2011].Obbe, C. (1980), African Women: Their Struggle for Economic Independence, Zed Books, London.OECD (1998), “Women entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises”, OECD Proceedings, Paris.Okafor, C., and Amalu, R. (2010). Entrepreneurial Motivations as Determinants of Women Entrepreneurship Challenges. Economic Sciences Series. LXII (2), p67-77.
  10. 10. Individual Assignment: s1062196 10Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa: Opportunities and ObstaclesOkafor, C., and Mordi, C. (2010). Women Entrepreneurship Development in Nigeria: The Effect of Environmental Factors. Economic Sciences Series. LXII (4), p43-52.O’Neil, R.C. and Viljoen, L. (2001), “Support for female entrepreneurs in South Africa: improvement or decline?”, Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences, Vol. 29, pp. 37-44.Remi-Alarape, A.A., Adetayo, E.D. and Nassar, M.L. (2009), “Understanding Entrepreneurial orientation of small medium enterprises in Nigeria and implication for SME development”, Proceedings of The University Forum for Human Resource Development, available at: p1/41466 [Accessed on 9 February 2011].Rosa, P., 2011. Entrepreneurship and Competitive Advantage in Africa. [Lecture]. Emerging Entrepreneurship in Africa Lecture 2. University of Edinburgh, Business School, Buccluech Place, 17 Jan. 2011.Winn, J. (2005), “Women entrepreneurs: can we remove the barriers?”, International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Vol. 1, pp. 381-97.Woldie, A., and Adersua, A. (2004). Female Entrepreneurs in a Transitional Economy: Businesswomen in Nigeria. International Journal of Social Economics. 31 (1/2), p78-93.UNECA., (2008). INFORMAL SECTOR, DEFINITION, CONCEPTS AND WEIGHTING IN AFRICAN ECONOMIES. [ONLINE] Available at: http:// [Accessed 12 February 2011].UNIDO (2001), “Women entrepreneurship in selected African countries”, Working Paper No. 7, UNIDO, Vienna.Zakaria, Y. (2001), “Entrepreneurs at home: secluded Muslim women and hidden economic activities in Northern Nigeria”, Nordic Journal of African Studies, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 107-23.