The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) through its Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division (GPSDP) and specifically Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Section (GEWES) promotes female entrepreneurship in Africa in line with the Continent-Wide Initiative for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment where women’s economic empowerment constitutes one of three pillars. During its statutory meeting, the Committee on Gender and Social Development, in October 2017. GEWES was asked to (i) explore further the reasons behind women’s overrepresentation in necessity-driven entrepreneurship and identify policies that can help member States design policies and programmes to support women transition into opportunity-driven entrepreneurship.
Guided by this request, GEWES prepared the Women’s Entrepreneurship Report (WER) on the theme “Education and Finance for Productive Entrepreneurship” based on the premise that educational attainment and access to finance are two critical and self-reinforcing determinants of productive entrepreneurship. Educational attainment of entrepreneurs plays an instrumental role in accessing finance which is often reported as the most binding constraint for firms’ growth and survival. However, injecting capital alone is unlikely to transform firms’ productive capacity; to move firms along the value chain and to transition them into more lucrative sectors, unless entrepreneurs have sufficient educational attainment and relevant skills that help them identify opportunities, take educated risks and innovate.