The importance of local economic development lies in improving the quality of life of the people in the area in which it is implemented. Entrepreneurship is a significant component of local economic development and contributes to it through job creation and the development of new markets. More specifically, women’s entrepreneurship is an opportunity for women to access income-generating activities and thus participate in development. The African continent stands out on a global scale because it has the highest rate of women entrepreneurs (24%). In Cameroon, however, the reality is that women are in the minority among business promoters, with a rate of 37.5% according to the report “Entrepreneurship and Gender in Cameroon” by the National Institute of Statistics (June 2020). This situation can be explained by the challenges faced by women who wish to start a business, including the need for training.
THE NEED FOR LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (LED)
One of the primary objectives of decentralization is to improve the livelihoods of citizens at the local level. LED development refers to a set of objectives, results and activities designed to foster economic development in the municipality. Local governments are tasked with the development of their own communities by using local economic and human resources, by encouraging public, private and civil society sectors to build partnerships and collaboratively develop solutions that will create wealth and jobs at the local level. LED activities include, but are not limited to, trade activities, investments, promotion of local entrepreneurship, and promotion of the council ’s main economic attributes.
THE IMPACT OF FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS ON LOCAL DEVELOPMENT
The importance of women’s entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is necessary to initiate the economic development process. It cannot be achieved if there is a part of the population that is not completely involved. Therefore, failing to empower women’s entrepreneurship will not lead to sustainable results. Women’s increased earning power in communities means increased spending on education, healthcare, social services and general well-being. It is therefore important for every LED strategy to not only include an entrepreneurship promotion strategy, but a specific strategy to promote women’s entrepreneurship.
The challenges faced by women’s entrepreneurship and how these are addressed by local governments
Africa has one of the highest entrepreneurship rates for women. Unfortunately, women’s economic activity tends to be concentrated in low profitability and low income sectors. Boosting women’s entrepreneurship is therefore key to local economic development. Some of the key challenges local governments can help women address are:
- Risk-averse financial institutions: though research demonstrates the contrary, women are still perceived as riskier clients, with higher costs and low This reduces the amount of investment that is made in women-driven businesses.
- Insufficient training : All entrepreneurs suffer from insufficient training. Women however tend to have even less access to training and education facilities.
- Lack of information: being more family-oriented and less educated, women do not always have access to information regarding funding, subsidies and incentives related to entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship needs to be inclusive and fair, providing equal opportunities to both men and women. Because women can have a great impact on their local communities, local governments stand to gain a lot from implementing strong measures that will promote, encourage and motivate women-driven entrepreneurship. In order to address the difficulties faced by female entrepreneurs mentioned above, local governments need to focus on the following activities:
- Promotional help: financial, non-financial and advisory assistance must be provided to women in order to accelerate their business activities.
- Training: improving access to formal education and providing business training workshops and conferences on the different elements of running a business and related financial management.
- Machinery and Technology: local governments can acquire the equipment needed to effectively run business activities locally, and make them available for use by locally-trained female entrepreneurs.
- Marketing assistance: local governments should provide local markets with greater visibility, in order to attract customers and investors from multiple locations and facilitate exportation and business transactions with other communities.
STRATEGIES!’APPROACH TO SUPPORTING WOMEN’S ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Based on the need to develop a global strategy for creating local solutions to local economic challenges, STRATEGIES! worked with local governments to put into place a LED approach for boosting women’s entrepreneurship.
The strategy was developed, based on the results of two major projects that were completed with 6 local governments, namely the Women Entrepreneurship Programme (WEP) and the Sandaga Market Women’s project.
The Women Entrepreneurship Program
The WEP was implemented in the Councils of Bot Makak, Soa, Wum, Kumbo and Zoetele. It was financed by the municiaplities and the Gender Fund of the Canadian Cooperation. .
The overall objective of the project was to help women entrepreneurs increase their profitability, seize economic opportunities and ensure the growth and sustainability of their business. This was to be achieved by offering business management training to 150 women, assisting the five (5) councils in putting in entrepreneurship promotion programs with emphasis on women, and training local resources persons that would ensure the sustainability of the project.
Ten (10) resource persons (2 per Council) were to be trained, and they would accompany and assist the women during their training. A total number of 160 women were trained between July 2004 and November 2005.
The training programme was implemented in five (5) phases, according to the table below (Table 1).
Table 1: The phases of the WEP
|Phase 1||Selection of trainees and
|· 150 women entrepreneurs were identiﬁed (30 per Council)
· 10 resource persons were identiﬁed (2 per Council)
· Councils build their capacity to carry out an objective selection process
|· Public information
· Strict selection process
|Phase 2||Needs assessment||· Identiﬁcation of the training needs of the women entrepreneurs
· Training modules adapted to their needs
· Mini Workshops
|Phase 3||Training of resource
|Training of resources persons on the content of the entrepreneurship training and on effective follow- up||
|Phase 4||Training of women
|Training of 150 women entrepreneurs on management and marketing skills||Workshops|
The selection of entrepreneurs was done by informing the target communities and receiving applications, performing a criteria-based selection and informing the participants of the training programme. The women then specifed their training needs which were in the areas of:marketing, mobilisation of financial resources, management of business capital, methods of running a restaurant, and the transformation of agricultural products. The program targeted micro and small entrepreneurs who were already engaged in business activities.
The training needs assessment enabled STRATEGIES! to develop a curriculum which covered the following topics: Women and entrepreneurship, leadership and management, market analysis, accounting for small business, marketing and sales strategies, human resource management, and action plan implementation.
After needs assessment, the following step was the training of resource persons which covered the following topics: the participatory approach, the key elements of managing a business, conceiving and planning a training event, the trainer, monitoring and evaluation, the elaboration of an action plan. Out of the target of 10 resource persons, 9 were finally trained.
Entrepreneurship training was then carried out for over 154 women in total with the resource persons acting as co-facilitators and being responsible for the monitoring and evalution of the implementation plans in their respective council areas. The training programme was eventually administered to more women than expected, due to high demand.
After two years following regular monitoring by the resource persons with the assistance of the local government, the program was evaluated to determine the impact the training had on the women and their respective businesses and councils. The evaluation covered the knowledge gained, the degree of satisfaction with regards to the assistance received from the resource persons, the impact of the training on the business turnover, the impact on business activities, and the increase in the council’s revenue. As a result of the training, multiple Women Entrepreneur Associations were created across the different councils.
- he evaluation showed WEP had significant impact on the women entrepreneurs, their activities and their Some key results were:.
- Job creation: the entrepreneurs were able to create an average of 23 new jobs per
- Business Growth : At least 60% of the entrepreneurs trained reported an increase in their turnover
- Municipal revenu : the growth in business turnover led to increase in taxes paid, leading to increased revenues for local governments, which in turn helped create new opportunities for new
- Strengthening Women’s Entrepreneurship and Access to Finance : Out of the five municiaplities in which women were trained, women created associations and cooperatives in three: Kumbo (10,000 women), Bot Makak (75 women), Wum (2000 women). These associations were able to:
- Carry out further training
- Develop partnerships with the municipality. In Kumbo the women’s cooperative developed a partnership with the urban council to provide fertilizer to women farmers
- Build savings and loans mechanisms which after one year had funds ranging from 2 to 17 million fcfa which were made available to women as credit for their businesses
- Become active participants in developing economic strategy for their municipalities
The Sandaga Market
A traditional market is a place to sell, exchange and distribute locally-produced goods. Markets are extremely important in local economic development as they represent one of the key sources of income for local governments in many African countries.
The Sandaga Market is located in Cameroon’s economic capital, along strategic trade routes. As much as 38% of goods sold at this market are destined forneighbouring countries such as Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, the Central African Republic and Tchad. The market The market also provides fruits and vegetables to other markets in Douala as well as in neighboring cities as seen in the following figure.
About 95% of the goods sold in Sandaga Market are fruits and vegetables and about 5% are manufactured products. Roughly80% of the market traders are women. . It is the largest fruit and vegetable market in the Central Africa sub-region.
This market therefore holds undeniable potential for the development of local communities.
From 2008 to 2009, STRATEGIES! carried out a women’s entrepreneurship and citizenship project with the Sandaga Market. The project involved five key steps:
- Needs assessment
- Training in:
- Leadership and citizenship
- Advocacy and partnership
- Association building
Needs assessment and training were carried out in a manner similar to the WEP program. Instead of part time resource persons however, two full-time technical assistants were hired to provide continuous hands-on training and coaching for the women. These technical assistants were located in the Sandaga Market and available to the women on a daily basis.
Over 500 women traders came together to create l’Union des Commerçantes du Marché Sandaga (UCOMAS). For over 8 years the association functioned well with the following key results:
- Training of women on business management resulting in business growth for over 60% of the women
- Training of women traders on their economic rights in the market which resulted in:
- Ending tax harassment from local tax officials in the market
- Ending extorsion including sexual harassment from the market management association
- Engagement with the municipality on cleanliness and safety in the market
- Building of a powerful women traders association that could:
- Advocate to the municipality for the rights of women traders
- Advocate to the market management committee
- Build a savings and loans fund which at its peak managed over 10 million fcfa for the women traders
Though UCOMAS continued to wax strong for over 5 years after the project, upon the departure of its very dedicated and charismatic founding president, the association floundered and has very little activity today.
THE WAY FORWARD
A clear development strategy for development is based on the principle of finding local solutions for local problems, while creating a scalable development model to be expanded to, and implemented in other communities.
The successes of the above-mentioned WEP and the Sandaga Market are positive indicators of how limited resources can be used to carry out programs that impact local economic development and specifically, women’s entrepreneurship in the country.The different steps applied can be scaled at a national level in order to contribute to the country’s development goals. The communities and municipalities presented in this article can serve as an example to others, even as they can improve on the results they obtained and scale these initiatives to reach a much greater number of women entrepreneurs.
Women’s entrepreneurship programs such as the WEP and the Sandaga Market Women’s program can contribute significantly to Local Economic Development. These programs require multiple stakeholders to be engaged at different levels, while working towards the goal of wealth creation and economic development at the local level.
Table 2: Proposed solutions for local development
|Stakeholder||Proposed Involvement : strategies and actions|
|Central government||· Determine national objectives for local economic development, then provide financial and technical assistance to local governments as they develop and implement LED strategies
· To ensure food security: monitor and standardise interactions at all levels between
sellers and buyers, enable equitable land distribution and access to increase and improve farming.
· To enable a smooth ﬂow of trade: improve transportation infrastructure and communication channels, reduce police harassment on roads.
· To ensure constant growth of agricultural commerce: create strategic marketplaces to facilitate local and cross-border trade.
|Entrepreneurs’ Associations||· Build strong associations that put the interests of member entrepreneurs at the center of their activity.
· Develop the vision of modern entrepreneurship, even in rural areas.
· Develop and implement the vision of the modern marketplace
· Strengthen ﬁscal and ﬁnancial potential
· Increase advocacy and negotiating power with partners of all types: municipality, financial institutions, central government, etc.
· Preserve human capital through health promotion, especially with the protection against common diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Coronavirus, Malaria, etc. which greatly impact the performance of small businesses
· Sharing the Market’s acquired experience with other markets and enable collaboration and idea-sharing
|Entrepreneurs and other Private Sector actors||· Be able to clearly identify common interests and work together to build strong associations that represent the interests of their members.
· Pay membership dues and contribute required time and effort to build a strong association
· Develop financial services that are adapted to the specific needs of entrepreneurs in the local economy.
· Develop a clear vision and strategy for local economic development
· Develop a clear plan to promote entrepreneurship including women’s entrepreneurship as well as entrepreneurship of other marginalized groups
· To enable a smooth ﬂow of trade: offer modern and suitable infrastructure for the markets, promote and ensure the security of the goods and of the people
· To promote the growth of agricultural trade: integrate the market as a strategic commercial space for local economic development, make the tax collection system efﬁcient and beneﬁcial for farmers and sellers, and synchronise costs to avoid uneven markets
- Roland Berger (November 2020), Accélérer la dynamique entrepreneuriale des femmes en Afrique, P.5
- H. Boko (2002), Decentralization and Reform in Africa, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
- STRATEGIES! (June 2006), Presentation of the Results of the Women Entrepreneurship Training
- Kumbo Council (June 2009), Strategic Planning Workshop.
- ILO (2008), Thematic Data on Local Economic Development (LED) in Kumbo Council Area.
- Wennekers, Sander, and Roy Thurik (1999). Linking entrepreneurship and economic growth . Small Business Economics 13: 27–55
- Miglani (2008), Need and Importance of Women Entrepreneurs , The Business Fame.
- Ciochina (2014), Female Entrepreneurship in Local Development , Management Strategies Journal, Constantin Brancoveanu University, Vol. 26(4).