Women and Trade Networks in West Africa

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Women make a significant contribution to West Africa's food economy, perpetuating a long tradition of commerce and participating in cross-border trade and regional outreach. Their activities face numerous obstacles but also present important opportunities, highlighted in this report through an unprecedented relational and spatial analysis of social networks. The study focuses on the rice sector in the Dendi region (Benin, Niger and Nigeria) and on the regional governance networks that support women's entrepreneurship. It confirms that Nigeria occupies a privileged position due to its demographics and growing urbanisation. The report proposes the development of innovative public policies based on the reinforcement of the social capital of women and policy approaches that promote better integration of the initiatives undertaken by governments, international and non-governmental organisations to empower women and strengthen their resilience.

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Obstacles and perspectives

Chapter 6 analyses the functional and institutional obstacles encountered by West African entrepreneurs. It presents two points of view: that of the actors in the rice value chain between Benin, Niger and Nigeria, and that of the decision makers that form the governance network linked to the economic promotion of women in the region. According to actors in the supply chain, illegal payments demanded at the border and excessive or unjust taxes are the largest obstacles that constrain commercial activities. Local entrepreneurs want more investment in the physical infrastructure of markets, transportation and policies to ease access to credit. Women are proportionally more likely to complain about the poor condition or lack of commercial infrastructure than men. From the perspective of policy makers and gender specialists, the principal obstacles arrayed against women entrepreneurs relate to education, financial services, cultural norms, property and the judicial system. This chapter presents four strategies based on social networks that could help accelerate social change and increase the effectiveness of organisations, two areas that are particularly relevant to the women entrepreneurs of West Africa.

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