The historic events of 2011 sparked unprecedented political, economic and social change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Citizens’ calls for greater social equity, more equal opportunities and stronger economic development have placed job creation at the centre of public policy concerns. Governments in the MENA regions are presented with the challenge and the opportunity to explore new sources of economic growth to generate jobs for the 2.8 million men and women who will enter the labour market every year. This will require pursuing an intense policy reform agenda including an improved business environment, labour market reforms and investment and equal access to education and skills formation for men and women.
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Ensuring that both men and women are able to create, operate and grow their businesses is fundamental for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. Evidence shows that the economic and societal gains from empowering entrepreneurs can be substantial in terms of jobs, productivity, competitiveness and innovation. In OECD countries, SMEs represent a major share of companies, employment and value added: on average they account for 99% of all firms, approximately two thirds of all employment and over one-half of value added.
The untapped potential of women's entrepreneurship
This chapter offers an overview of women’s entrepreneurship levels, both globally and in the MENA region. MENA governments have made notable improvements in recent years to their policy frameworks and support measures for private enterprise development. They have also expressed commitment to supporting and fostering women's entrepreneurship development. There has also been an increase in survey-based research on women entrepreneurs in the region, no doubt contributing to a better understanding of their unique characteristics and challenges. Nevertheless, MENA women’s participation rates in the formal economy – including as entrepreneurs – remain among the lowest in the world. This contrasts with the increased investment in female education in the region and MENA women’s improving educational outcomes. The potential of women's entrepreneurship to bring economic growth, develop jobs and reduce poverty in the region is undeniable and this chapter suggests that it be can be unleashed through further policy support.
Methodology and Framework for assessing supportfor women's entrepreneur ship in MENA
This chapter outlines the purpose of this report and describes its underlying methodology and framework.
Public policy and women's entrepreneurship in the MENA region
This chapter examines MENA governments' levels of policy leadership on women's entrepreneurship development, with a focus on publicly available policy statements, government promotional efforts and mechanisms to mainstream women's issues in public/private policy dialogue. Global experience has shown that consistent policy commitment at the highest levels of government is key to accelerating women's entrepreneurship development. The level of policy support for women’s economic activity varies across the MENA region. Some governments have implemented national development plans or national gender strategies; others have engaged in efforts to promote women entrepreneurs and showcase their accomplishments. Such efforts could be further strengthened, however, and this chapter outlines possible ways to do this.
Institutional support for businesswomen in the MENA region
Experience shows that dedicated institutional structures for co-ordinating initiatives in support of women entrepreneurs are effective. This chapter looks at such structures in the MENA region. Most MENA governments have established institutions mandated to advance women's economic and social status, although none have yet established a government unit dedicated specifically to women's entrepreneurship development. Business registration and licensing bodies seldom have mechanisms to reach out to women entrepreneurs. Nor do SME agencies generally have clear strategies or targeted support for women entrepreneurs. Several chambers of commerce, notably in the Gulf countries, have established businesswomen's committees to increase women's participation in these associations. Businesswomen's associations exist in all MENA economies and offer networking opportunities, mentoring, training, and in some cases business incubation, to women entrepreneurs.
MENA women entrepreneurs' access to credit and financial services
This chapter examines women entrepreneurs’ access to finance in the MENA region and the specific financing challenges they face. More than in other parts of the world, MENA women, like their male counterparts, finance their business activities through personal savings or family members and friends. The underdeveloped financial markets in MENA limit options for male and female entrepreneurs alike, but women entrepreneurs are also confronted with gender-specific obstacles such as insufficient collateral, limited financial literacy, or a lack of funding for women-led businesses that have moved beyond the micro-financing stage. Women are also generally outside the targeted clientele of commercial banks, credit guarantee schemes, venture capital firms and business angel networks, perhaps in part due to the underdevelopment of public or private credit bureaus in the region.
Business development services and information
This chapter looks at measures to improve women's access to business development services and to business and market information in MENA economies. Business development service providers for women entrepreneurs can be public or private and can take the form of women's enterprise centres, women's business resource centres or business incubators for women-led firms. They offer women entrepreneurs services such as common facilities, technical services, skills development training and strategic assistance. Women entrepreneurs’ access to formal channels of information is limited in the MENA region and they may experience higher access barriers because they are not always included in informal networks where useful information is shared, or because development service providers make limited efforts to tailor their marketing and products to a female clientele.
Data collection and research on women entrepreneurs in MENA economies
This chapter offers a "state of play" account of data collection and research on women entrepreneurs in the MENA region. Overall, systematic data on the enterprise sector is lacking. The availability of gender-disaggregated data by the national statistical offices on a number of key enterprise indicators varies across the region. Such data are necessary to determine to what extent MENA governments are equipped to develop sound policies and programmes for women's enterprise development. In addition to the collection of data by national governments, survey-based studies by government and nongovernment actors could also provide insights on the characteristics and needs of women entrepreneurs.
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