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FEMALE ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH-EAST, NIGERIA

Business Administration & Management Project Topics

CHAPTER ONE

 INTRODUCTION

1.1    Background of the Study

For over a decade, the experience of Nigeria in the process of economic development has not been encouraging. Consequently female entrepreneurship is now seen to attract considerable amount of attention as a subject of academic debate (Cartel and Cannon, 2007). According to Veheul, Uhlioner and Thurk (2005), the growing interest in female entrepreneurship is attributable to the fact that female entrepreneurs are now considered important forces in economic development of their nations. This is not surprising as more than ever before, many females have been forced into alternative avenues of generating income, with a greater number of females setting up in business to balance work and family commitments (Kirk and Belovies, 2006). For example, Werter  (2004) notes that females in business are a growing force in the economy, and in transition environment, their contribution extends from the economic sphere to include the wider process of social transformation (Welter , 2006).

Okafor (2009) posits that the role assigned to entrepreneurship for economic growth and development especially in the developed economies such as USA, Britain, Japan, Canada and others made most developing economies to adjust their developmental concept and plan and see new enterprise development as very vital to their economic problems. Entrepreneurship as the engine of economic growth and wheel that pedals the vehicle of economic development has been recognized for its importance in the area of job creation, revenue generation, poverty alleviation and wealth creation. This concept is now identified as the central element in the theory of economic development (Schumpeter, 1994 and Josiane, 1998). It makes up the largest business sector in economies, and has been recognized as the driver of employment and economic growth (Culkin and Smith 2000, Peacock, 2004: Wang, Walker and Redmond, 2006).

Entrepreneurship is important for the support of small and medium enterprises (United Nations, 2006). With active small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sub-sector in the production process, developed and less developed countries are expected to depend less on large industries to drive their economy towards prosperity. This is because economic renewal and growth is expected to be increasingly driven within the vehicle of enterprise creation and the industry clusters. Entrepreneurship is therefore a process that involves a willingness to rejuvenate market forces, innovate, risks taking, trying out of new and uncertain products, services, and markets and being more proactive than competitors towards exploring new business opportunities (Civin and Slevin, 1991; Wiklund and Shepherd, 2005). It attracts both males and females who are interested in profitable inter-industry relationship. To ensure adequate development and competitiveness in entrepreneurship, considerable research has examined the participation of both males and females in venturing into business activities, particularly those reported to have personal dreams of entrepreneurship. This category has rapidly joined hands together to achieve success in business and enterprises development (Gelin, 2005).

Female entrepreneurs are therefore becoming increasingly important in the socio-economic development of both developed and developing economies as they account for significant percent of the operators of small and medium Enterprises (SMEs) (Josiane, 1998: Kjeldsen and Nielson, 2000). Female entrepreneurs make a substantial contribution to national economies through their participation in start-ups and their growth in small and medium businesses (United Nations, 2006). Their interest and activities in the economic growth and development especially in the area of SMEs have received outstanding interest of researchers. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) (2005) confirmed that female participation in a wide range of entrepreneurial activities across the 37 GEM and their activities in different countries have paid off in form of many newly established enterprises for job and wealth creation. This notwithstanding, entrepreneurship is usually seen from the perspective of men driven economy (Gerlin, 2005; Josiane, 1998) due to its complexity, particularly its gender issues, the role of female entrepreneurship has not been properly documented.

While female entrepreneurship is a central aspect of economic development and public policy concern in most countries, scholarly research about their entrepreneurial activities is comparatively scarce. The role of entrepreneurs as agents in the labour market for creation of employment, wealth creation, poverty alleviation and provision of resources has helped tremendously to increase the number of female – owned entrepreneurial ventures in the world. The emergence of the private sector as the major participant/player in the industrial development of many countries has also improved females’ access in employment opportunities as against when they experienced denial in employment opportunities as wage workers because of their family responsibilities (Josiane, 1998).

To cope with these challenges, the development of self-employment, especially in the area of SMEs became the last resort for them (Thompson, 2002). SMEs contribute more than 50% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of most nations both developed and less developed (Oyekanmi, 2004: Uchechukwu, 2004; Ojo, 2006). Its contributions to economic development have been predominantly in the area of job creation, poverty alleviation, environmental vitality, wealth creation and human capital. Female entrepreneurs therefore account for more than half of the operators of SMEs sub-sector and they operate more often in the agricultural, manufacturing, trade and service sectors (Kjeldsen and Nielson, 2000; community, women and development (COWAD), 2004; Gelin, 2005). However, the operation of SMEs involves considerable risks, hard work, enormous sacrifice and sincerity of purpose which cut across various obstacles. The risks, challenges and obstacles (Ojo, 2004) perhaps affect female entrepreneurs more than their male counterparts, making their chances of success to be considerably lower than men (Hisrich and Brush, 1986). Considering the various challenges facing SMEs particularly in Nigeria which includes; capital inadequacy, unavailability of the required infrastructure, shortage of manpower to mention but few. Someone may quickly conclude that Females are usually discouraged from venturing into enterprise development. But today the story is a different one; females are starting and growing businesses at an unprecedented rate.

In USA, the analysis of gender creative businesses shows that the rate of growth of   female – owned businesses is twice that of men and this comprises more than 35% share of all entrepreneurial ventures. They generate over $2.3 trillion in annual revenue, and employ 18 million individuals (Bartol and Martin, 1998). In Nigeria, female entrepreneurs are considered as an integral part of economic growth. Their businesses contribute jobs, productive and distributive activities required for wealth creation both for family and nations’ economies (Soetan, 1997; Okunade, 2007). Female activities in entrepreneurship and SMEs enable them to effectively combine their productive and reproductive roles because of the flexibility in hours of work which permit them to care for their children and also contribute substantially to economic growth (Soetan, 1997). This has made females to be regarded as the central focus of the economic development and public policy concern (Bagby, 2005).

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