Women entrepreneurs in Ghana help ignite an economy boom

Ghana has invested in literacy and microfinance programs for women, and it's paying off in business development and growth.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP/File
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (c.) poses with participants in the 2011 African Women's Entrepreneurship Program on Oct. 3, at the State Department in Washington. Just left of Clinton is Priscilla Impraim of Ghana. Women entrepreneurs are expected to help make Ghana the fastest-growing economy in the world this year.

Ghanaian women are mothers, daughters, and wives. Add entrepreneurs to the list. Female entrepreneurs are flourishing across Africa, but Ghanaian women are leading the pack.

Education, national stability, and microfinance have spurred their success.

Ghana’s government recognizes the important role women play in reaching the country’s development goals. “No nation can move on without emphasizing the education and emancipation of women,” said Vice President John Dramani Mahama.

One result of that attitude is an increase in women’s education, and the cornerstone of further education is literacy.

The literacy rate among females between the ages of 15 to 24 is 78 percent, according to UNICEF, up from 16.6 percent in 1970. This is an impressive jump in the time span of one generation and demonstrates how many more Ghanaian women today can access the kind of skills needed for running a business, like accounting, marketing, and management.

Ghana’s stability has also helped catapult its business environment forward. It was the first nation in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence in 1957.

In the 1970s and 1980s, political instability took its toll on the country. But since then, Ghana has regained political stability and goodwill from the international community, providing an environment ripe for business growth and development. As a result, investor confidence has increased.

Rising investment has influenced Ghana’s economic prosperity, and the country is currently the fastest-growing economy of 2011, growing 20.2 percent in the first half of the year, according to Economy Watch.

Ghana's natural resources also boost its per-capita GDP, which International Entrepreneurship reported is twice that of its poorer West Africa neighbors.

Finally, for decades Ghana has been reaping the benefits of microfinance, a tool that may be especially effective in empowering women. As described by the Economics Web Institute, Ghana provided subsidized credit in the 1950s, established an Agricultural Development Bank in 1965 for fish and farm loans, and required commercial banks to set aside 20 percent of their portfolios for agriculture and small-scale industries in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The result?

Today, the female labor force participation rate in Ghana is estimated at 50.1 percent – and women account for about 50.2 percent of the entire population of Ghana. With improved education, the prosperity of the country, and a stable microfinance sector, the women of Ghana are making an impact in the entrepreneurial world that cannot be denied.

This article first appeared on Global Envision, a blog published by Mercy Corps.

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