Women entrepreneurs often have to overcome financial, social and cultural barriers to establish and scale up their businesses. While women in Ethiopia operate 65% of micro-enterprises, their participation in manufacturing is only 26% and land ownership is even less at 19%. Moreover, given household responsibilities, credit availability and other constraints, women are unable or unwilling to scale their businesses beyond a micro-enterprise level. Yet, they are key to local economic development. They create jobs, reinvest capital in their communities and, above all, inspire other young, talented women to develop their ideas and start their own companies.
With these challenges and opportunities in mind, the Ethiopia Climate Innovation center (ECIC) organized in Addis Ababa the first Women’s Special Interest Group Meeting. The event inaugurated a series of initiatives specifically designed by the center to identify, analyze, and address the main challenges that women entrepreneurs face in their business activities. Held on August 19th at the ECIC headquarters, the roundtable gathered a diverse group of women, with representatives from the Ethiopia Women Exporters’ Association, the Addis Ababa University Gender Office, and the UNDP’s Entrepreneurship Development Center.
During the event, both accomplished and aspiring female entrepreneurs shared opinions and personal experiences on how limited access to finance, cultural barriers, and insufficient networking opportunities are undermining their entrepreneurial efforts. The discussions highlighted how these limitations are further exacerbated when women are attempting to create new companies. Without support systems that can provide basic skills and critical resources, the lack of funding and, in some cases, the absence of autonomy due to cultural attitudes can represent insurmountable obstacles to creating and launching new businesses.
In addition to gathering valuable insights on the status quo of women’s entrepreneurship in Ethiopia, the ECIC is using these open meetings to test the environment and explore what tools and approaches could be most effective in the current socio-economic context. From establishing a women mentor network to launching educational campaigns targeting girls at universities and schools, the ECIC will experiment with a number of different approaches to boost women’s involvement in cleantech and entrepreneurship all over Ethiopia.