The Women’s Path to Development

The Contribution of Women Entrepreneurs to Development in Ghanaian Communities

Ghana is a country of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Not only do they represent 92% of the businesses and 85% of the manufacturing employment in the country, but they also contribute to 70% of the GDP (1). Women have played a leading role in their development.

When Ghana became a democracy after 30 years of political turmoil, the country had to face huge economic challenges. Relying on the financial assistance from the World Bank and the IMF, the successive governments of John Kufuor and John Atta-Mills undertook free-market reforms and bet on SMEs to boost economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation. As a result, their number have steadily increased, contributing to fuel the 6% economic growth Ghana has experienced for the past decade.

As in most African countries, the majority of SMEs in Ghana are female-owned businesses, even though they often remain in the informal sector. The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs stated that women “control more than 50 percent of informal sector businesses” (2).  They operate mostly in rural areas or small urban centers.

Smile Dzisi et al. did a study among 216 women entrepreneurs in SMEs in the Koforidua Municipality in the Eastern region of the country (3). They showed that female entrepreneurs are involved in both “traditional and non-traditional women’s business sectors,” such as trading, services, agro-processing, manufacturing, textiles and fabrics, agriculture, education and construction. Furthermore, they established that these women have an innovative approach of their own activity, and half of them have engaged into business diversification, therefore generating more revenue for themselves and their relatives and creating more jobs opportunities in their community.

However, Ghanaian women entrepreneurs encounter a number of structural obstacles, which is the reason why the majority “tend to operate the more traditional low-income businesses […] often with low potential of growth” (4). High tax rate, economic uncertainty and lack of access to land and loans are the highest challenges to business (5). For instance, while they are usually risk adverse as compared to their male counterparts, they often have difficulties accessing credit. As a result, over 70% of women entrepreneurs start their business with capital less than 100 USD, and 90% use personal savings rather than loans from formal institutions.


The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs and the development community have acknowledged the positive impact of Ghanaian women entrepreneurs on the economy both at a national and local level. This is the reason why they have worked together to further empower them. They have given them access to micro credit and small loans, provided them with agro-processing equipment, offered them management trainings and shared more information on the tax issue (7).

This year, oil production has officially begun at the Jubilee oilfield, which has raised fears that Ghana has become another African country cursed with oil. In such a context, Ghanaian women have a major role to play in the development of the country as a sustainable middle-income economy.

By Daniele Adler


  1. ABOR (Joshua) and QUARTEY (Peter), Issues in SME Development in Ghana and South Africa, International Research Journal of Finances and Economics,, 2010
  2. Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs,
  3. DZISI (Smile), BUCKLEY (Patricia), SELVARAJAH (Christopher), MEYER (Denny), Women Entrepreneurial Activities in Developing Economies,, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia, 2008
  4. Ghana Country Profile, African Development Fund,, October 2008
  5. Voices of Women Entrepreneurs in Ghana, International Finance Corporation, April 2007
  6. African Development Fund, ibid.
  7. Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, ibid.