The growing emphasis on rural small and medium size entrepreneurship for economic development, especially in the context of poverty alleviation in developing countries has thrown up some major challenges for the commercial ventures led by women in global perspective. The position of women, even in the developing world, has been far from uniform or nonlinear in this emerging global scenario. Against this backdrop and through several exemplary cases around the world, this paper intends to highlight that women entrepreneurs have made some gains and its emerging role in the rural African setup given the imminent global economic crisis. The market for e-business and e-commerce is, at least potentially, has strengthened their ability to more effectively compete even in the domestic market. A number of such interventions in the area of IT based commercial enterprises for women have been undertaken all over the world. This paper, therefore, underlines the strategic challenges and opportunities from a gender focus to analyze the prospects of rural small and medium entrepreneurship for women through an analytical research on women’s ITbased commercial enterprises and present a matrix of issues before the women entrepreneurs. Women Entrepreneurs have grown in large number across the globe over the last decade and increasingly the entrepreneurial potentials of women have changed the rural economies in many parts of the world. Besides the star cases like “Grameen Telephone Ladies” in Bangladesh spearheaded by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus, many other isolated cases of successful women
Chairman & CEO, South Asia Development Gateway and Director, Regional Institute for Research & Development, 46, Sijubari Masjid Road, Guwahati 781038 (India). Email: email@example.com
businesses abound in recent years.2 Richard Duncombe et al shows ELIF Business Solutions (Zambia), BusyIncubator (Ghana) and Kudumbashree (India) as some illustrative cases.3 With the increasing number of rural women joining the entrepreneurial bandwagon their conventional role in the society has also been changing with the growing economic leverage they are mastering now. The quintessential home-maker with her born managerial skill, knowledge and adaptability in the difficult social milieu made them eager to take up even otherwise apparently ‘non-viable’ business ventures and often turned them into success stories. ‘Women Entrepreneur’, in a larger sense, therefore is a person who accepts challenging role to meet her personal needs and become economically self-sufficient. They are moved by a strong desire to do something economically gainful that will bring ‘value addition’ to their both family and social life. With the advent of global economy followed by information society and subsequent knowledge economy, a new image appeared in the mass mediawomen who are ready to break away from the traditional roles and the ‘circumstantial helplessness’ that hindered their entrepreneurial growth for many years. From women business leaders of the multinational corporations to the village women in Ghana all are now aware of their own advantages, challenges ahead as well as the emerging opportunities. The challenges and opportunities provided to the women of information society are turning them fast into job creators. In the context of Africa, especially against the backdrop of a global financial recession, although women constitute the majority of the total population, the entrepreneurial world of rural African women is still a very limited one. Rural women in many other countries like Bangladesh have proved themselves in the business world but the larger mass of African rural women are still facing some major problems in terms of funding, training, support services and technology orientation.