Analysis of African women in business

March 12, 2017

African women are increasingly becoming business operators, perhaps to improve their family’s social and economic wellbeing, remain attached to the labour force and better manage their work-life balance. Just over a quarter of Africa’s business operators are women but their numbers are rising. They’re the movers and shakers, the disrupters and the innovators.  Women in Africa are entrepreneurs who have built their own business and along the way have had a lasting impact on business. They run businesses that range from small startups to huge multinationals. Women on their own way are changing the way Africa does business.In my post i will provides a profile of some women business operators whom i’ve come across over the years, to enable a better understanding of the changing role of this pathway of employment for African women. Am in possession of wide range of data I gathered together for the first time to present a picture of their business and employment characteristics. I will explain the ways in which women who run their own businesses differ from male business operators, and from female and male employees and also examine the reasons women establish their own businesses, and notes some of the barriers to women’s employment in general and starting a business in particular. Recognising interest in particular groups of women business operators, i will provides key characteristics of groups combined from urban women, migrant women, women in remote Africa, women in war torn countries, older women and women with dependent children. In data I analysed from multiple credible research shows that African women were most likely to be owner managers of an unincorporated business with no employees at 62%. Women business operators were less likely to be independent contractors at 18% compared with 87% of male business operators. Women were more likely to have started their business more recently at 83% of women and 45% of men had been working in their business for less than five years. The mean length of time worked in their current business was 1.9 years for women and 4.5 years for men.

Over the last decade ending 2015, African women business operators overall have become less likely to employ staff, dropping from 46% in 2006 to 28% in 2016. The greatest number of women business operators worked in the hairdressing industry while the most common occupations of women business operators were bar tender, bookkeeper, retail manager, general clerk, office manager, secretary, and hairdresser. Around 34% of African women business operators had no intention of ever retiring. In July 2016, most African women business operators were own account workers, that is, they had an unincorporated business without employees and the next most common business type for women was an incorporated business with employees. Around 9% of women business operators owned an incorporated business with no employees, while the rest were employers, that is, they had an unincorporated business with employees. This pattern of business type was similar to that of men who operated businesses according to data i analysed. Women who operate unincorporated business can be further classified as independent contractors who are engaged by a client rather than an employer to undertake work, while other business operators tend to manage staff or sell goods or services to the public, rather than providing a labour service directly to a client. Women were less likely than men to be independent contractors and in 2015, a third of African women business operators were independent contractors, compared with 59% of men who operated businesses. Overall, an eighth of employed men and a tenth of employed women were independent contractors. Women in Africa who were independent contractors were most likely to be professionals or clerical and administrative workers. African women who were other business operators were most likely to report their occupation as manager. Most women independent contractors had no employees at 90% compared with 67% of men, and most had authority over their own work at 48% compared with 61% of men.Those that did not have authority over their own work may have been subject to the authority of a customer, business partner, board, franchising company, or a government or other regulation. Around 74% of men and 49% of women who were independent contractors in 2015 were able to sub- contract their own work. In 2015, 76% of women and 87% of men who were independent contractors were usually able to work on more than one active contract at a time.

While the length of time a business has been operating is not able to be derived from various social surveys i analysed, and is not available by gender in multiple business surveys conducted over the last five years, a measure is available in a survey which asks how long people have been continuously employed in their current job or business. In 2015, three in every five women business operators had been working in their current business for less than five years. Just over two in ten had been working in their current business for less than 36 months, while a further 20% had been working in their business for less than 24 months only. Reflecting the growing nature of women’s business ownership, African women business operators were more likely than men to have been working in their business for less than 48 months and less likely than men to have been in their current business for 10 years or more. The mean length of time business operators had worked in their current main job was 3.2 years for women and 5.2 years for men. In 2015, women were just as likely as men to expect that they would still be in their business in 6 months’ time. While reasons for not expecting to be with a current employer or business in 6 months are diverse, most did not expect to be operating their business in 6 months’ time were that they were changing jobs or seeking other employment, or retiring. Over the last decade, women business operators have become less likely to be employers.In 2016, the most common broad industries of African women business operators were professional, scientific, and technical services, followed by retail trade, health care and social assistance , and other services such as repair and maintenance, personal care, funeral services and religious services. The most common broad industries for African male business operators are construction, professional, scientific, and technical services, agriculture, forestry and fishing, and manufacturing. Perusing different industries data, the hairdressing and beauty, other allied health service, and building and other industrial cleaning service industries accounted for the greatest number of women business operators. The top broad occupations for African women business operators were managers, professionals, and clerical and administrative workers.At a more detailed analysis, the top jobs for women business operators were bookkeeper, retail manager, general clerk, office manager, secretary, and hairdresser. Also, cattle and mixed crop and livestock farming made it into the top for both women and men, as did retail manager, salesperson, cafe or restaurant manager, accountant, and general practitioner. Going forward i hope now you know which formal employment or business women in Africa engage in.

Contador Harrison