Celebrating the Commonwealth Women’s Forum 2022

Celebrating the Commonwealth Women’s Forum 2022

When I first penned down my women entrepreneurship research in March 2019, Celebrating Women’s Day: A Poem on my Research, little did I realise that I would be reflecting upon that piece more than 3 years on. There are two issues here with a common denominator.

First, my most recent research on a woman businessowner (i.e., Heaven Kigali, Rwanda) highlighted a major pivot which is acknowledged here. Second, the 2022 Commonwealth Womens’ Forum is today and tomorrow, and yes here in Rwanda!

As I pointed out many years ago, or so it seems, “I am pleased to share a timeline of my research on women between 2009 and 2015 – albeit from an entrepreneurship lens.” Let me recount the journey of my research staring with that which published in 2009. This inaugural article on the subject, which is entitled Breaking the glass ceiling in Nigeria: A review of women’s entrepreneurship, explores the relevance of the age-long conundrum known as the glass ceiling as ever more questionable for a number of compelling reasons. First, its root in the invisible barriers (push factors) facing women’s career progression prospects in the corporate world is ever-changing at a rapid pace across every region of the globe. Second, research shows some evidence of a major dramatic increase in women-owned businesses as being attributable to women’s desire to gain more flexibility in their work arrangements (pull factors). By providing a catalogue of pull factors in the context of African (especially Nigerian) women entrepreneurs, this paper surmised that:

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the glass ceiling problem may have well been shattered in numerous spheres, and thus become less tenable as a gender-specific reality in the twenty-first century.

The second article entitled Micro-credit for microenterprises? which published in 2010, is a co-authored paper that examines the factors that constrain women petty traders’ access to microcredit, and the innovative measures they have initiated in order to counter these constraints. Based on in?depth interviews with women micro?entrepreneurs drawn from a convenience sample of 20 petty traders in the market town of Awka – the capital of a state in Eastern Nigeria, the paper identifies three main constraints – internal, socio?cultural and policy induced – as the key moderating influences on women petty traders’ ability access to micro?credit. This paper posits that the lack of access to credit promotes market exclusion and deepens the socioeconomic and political vulnerability of women as a consequence.

In the third article entitled Setting an agenda for women entrepreneurship in Nigeria, and published in 2011, the discourse on women in a developing world context is moved from the margins of international obscurity by acknowledging the contributions of reputable academics from an emerging market context on a subject that has pervaded the global podium in recent years – i.e. women in management. Adopting a strictly qualitative stance – a narrative analysis of a single book on women written by “a woman of status” – Dr (Mrs) Faseke, a graduate of the University of Ibadan and one time Head of the Department of History at the Lagos State University (Nigeria). This paper acknowledges:

…the “silent voices” of African women, drawing upon a publication that was encountered purely by chance – Modupe Faseke’s “The Nigerian Woman,” published by Agape Publications (Ibadan, Nigeria) in 2001.

Fourth in the line-up is a co-authored article Broken silence: a commentary on women’s entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates, published in 2012, which draws upon the scant literature on women’s entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It explores the motivations of women business owners in the country based on 10 in-depth interviews. Considering the patriarchal socio-cultural environmental context associated with the Middle East, a number of surprising dynamics are highlighted in the specific case of the UAE.

Growing numbers of women graduates and businesses are observed, which suggests that the historical silence among this group is gradually being broken and that changes in government policies and the socio-cultural environment are the key drivers behind this evolution.

In the fifth article, this book chapter entitled Women entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa, published in 2014/ 2015, highlights the challenges of women business owners in SSA using in- depth interviews from four different countries. The primary aim of the chapter is to pinpoint shared challenges of women entrepreneurs and/ or business owners drawing upon their narratives and attributions. The chapter unpacks four critical dimensions impacting upon the similarities and/ or differences in experiences – notably:

The owner’s background (nationality, ethnicity, education, family etc.); prior motivations (why they chose to start- up); challenges (including start- up capital, government regulations, personal achievements), and plans for the future.

Sixth, and finally this full case study entitled Heaven Kigali-Knocking on Heaven’s Door, which published in a leading textbook, Strategic Marketing: Creating Competitive Advantage published by Oxford University Press in 2015 highlights the story of Heaven Restaurant & Bar, Kigali (capital city of Rwanda), owned and managed by an American woman who has been doing business in a foreign country since 2006 and navigating the “liability of foreignness”. The case was developed over a 6-month period (June-December 2012), on the back of personal observation and a prolonged in-depth interview with the Entrepreneur. Heaven first came to light as part of a CNN documentary with a focus on developments in Rwanda – dubbed Africa’s Singapore.

Given Rwanda’s tourism plan in its Vision 2020 commitment to improving hospitality and supporting tourism, the story of Heaven, provides an ideal contribution to the realities of doing business abroad and the attendant liability-of-foreignness usually attached to such enterprise. 

The same case was only recently updated in an article Hospitality in Crisis Times: Heaven Kigali Case Study | ICSB | International Council for Small Business

Indeed, further scholarly enquiry on how to cope with the realities of women in business both large, small and everything in-between.

I have since added two more case profiles from Ghana and again Rwanda – notably Alhaji’s Wife Kitchen redefines the Waakye Experience – Tekedia and Pangolin’s Burrows, Kigali, Rwanda: My Encounter with Aileen Lyatuu, CEO – Tekedia

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