Hairdresser, Wassa East District, Ghana. May 2018. #WAGES
Hairdresser, Wassa East District, Ghana. May 2018. #WAGES

Leading the climate fight: How we can support women entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa

Women entrepreneurs are critical to a thriving and inclusive economy, yet they face numerous challenges in growing their businesses. These challenges are compounded for women climate entrepreneurs (WCEs), who are critical innovators and catalysts in the response to climate change around the world.

WUSC is excited to launch our new knowledge product: Strategies for Incubators and Accelerators: Strengthening Ecosystems for Women Climate Entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa. This research is part of our Accelerating Women Climate Entrepreneurs (AWCE) project. Funded by Global Affairs Canada, we are implementing this two-year initiative in collaboration with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs. In our new knowledge product, we identify numerous challenges and opportunities for WCEs with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. Fundamental to this knowledge project is elevating the voices of WCEs who play an important role in developing solutions to tackle the climate crisis in their communities. 

Lessons learned from our research on WCEs in Sub-Saharan Africa

We interviewed multiple stakeholders across regions including WCEs, financial institutions, and investment funds. In Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rate of female entrepreneurship worldwide, women-owned businesses are typically smaller in size and report lower volumes of sales and earnings compared to men-owned businesses. Women-owned businesses face significantly greater barriers than men-owned businesses in getting access to finance, which can make it difficult for them to grow.  

“The rate of growth of male peers has been faster where they have also been able to guarantee loan facilities with assets that I don’t have.” WCE, Kenya

Another gap is the lack of mentorship programs for WCEs. Climate entrepreneurship is a sector that is largely dominated by men. There is also a shortage of female role models, mentors and coaches. 

‘Women entrepreneurs are not being encouraged and mentored…This makes it difficult to make a case for aspiring entrepreneurs to venture into the climate field because there is no demonstration of ‘success’ or wealth creation.’ WCE, Ghana

Spotlight on WCEs 

As part of the research, we wanted to highlight the work of successful WCEs. These women are innovative, driven, and resilient. Here are some examples: 

“I have been very proactive in presenting our ideas and taking part in competitions. We received support locally from the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre and internationally from Climate Launchpad, as well as from the Asilafia Farmers Market in the Volta Region for a soil restoration project.” Audrey Darco from Sabon Sake

“Prime Green received support from Renewable Energy Business Incubation (REBI) who offered training on production of cook stoves, entrepreneurship, marketing among others. REBI also supplied machinery for production. Their services greatly improved their business and moved it to another level.” Patience Karugi from Prime Green

How can incubators and accelerators support WCEs in Sub-Saharan Africa?

With the growing recognition of the important role that women play in combating climate change, climate finance stakeholders are increasing efforts to understand and address the gender/climate nexus. Here are some ways that incubators and accelerators can advance the capacity of WCEs to innovate and scale: 

  1. Collaborate with climate-focused organizations and programs to share resources. 
  2. Provide capacity building opportunities to improve technical expertise 
  3. Apply a gender lens to climate-related programming
  4. Build partnerships with financial institutions, governments, universities and research institutions, and women’s associations
  5. Amplify the experiences of WCEs 

WCEs’ contribution to adapting to and mitigating climate change is critical. A multi-stakeholder engagement with new and innovative models and approaches is needed to address these challenges. Read our full report.

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