Women own almost half of all businesses in Ghana - Mastercard Report

BY: Kweku Zurek
Women own almost half of all businesses in Ghana - Mastercard Report

Almost half the businesses in Ghana are owned by women, the second edition of the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) has revealed.

Ten African countries made the list with Ghana ranking the highest with 46% of women business owners as a percentage of all business owners.

Ghana ranked ahead of second-placed Russia (34.6%), third-placed Uganda 33.8% and the United States which is listed at 23rd with only 25.5% of the businesses owned by women.

Strengths and Opportunities

The report noted that there are several aspects of the entrepreneurial conditions in Ghana that leads to the strong level of women entrepreneurship. First, it said women tend to be more inclined to engage in entrepreneurial activities (38%) than men (35%). They were also found to have a very strong representation as business leaders.

Another enabling factor was found to stem from Ghanaian society’s high regard for entrepreneurship as a good career choice (81.6%) and successful entrepreneurs (94.1%). For both perception indicators, Ghana’s rating was the highest in the world (GEM 2012 sub-Saharan Africa).

"This is not surprising. Given that the country is a lower-middle income and factor-driven market, women typically turn to necessity-driven entrepreneurial activities out of sheer will to survive and support oneself and family," the report said.

"These activities are often operated in the informal micro to medium-scale agriculture, manufacturing and services sectors of the economy, and take the form of self-employment (as opposed to job creation or business growth).

"The vital role that women play as farm owners, farm partners and farm labourers is astounding: their contribution is estimated to account for around 70% to 80% of food consumed in the country. They have also become increasingly responsible for the education and other material needs of their wards, especially in female-headed households".

The Index also indicated that developed markets with strong enabling conditions are not immune to a cultural bias against female entrepreneurship.

The Index suggested that the opportunity for entrepreneurship is not necessarily aligned with the pace of a market’s economic development. Emerging economies such as Ghana (46.4 percent) – one of the Index’s three newly added markets along with Malawi and Nigeria – Uganda (33.8 percent) and Vietnam (31.3 percent) were found to have higher women business ownership rates, compared to more developed ones.

Women in these markets are deemed as necessity-driven entrepreneurs, spurred by a need for survival despite their lack of financial capital and access to enabling services.

Overall, the Index showed that budding and established women entrepreneurs around the world continue to progress despite gender-related cultural biases that can create significant roadblocks hindering them from advancing their businesses.

The Index used 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators to look at how 57 countries (economies) across the Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, North America, Latin America and Europe – representing 78.6 percent of the world’s female labour force – differ in terms of the level of the three components.

Mastercard MIWE 2018 

Women business owners as a percentage of all business owners – Top 10 markets

  • Ghana – 46.4%
  • Russia – 34.6%
  • Uganda – 33.8%
  • New Zealand – 33.0%
  • Australia – 32.1%
  • Vietnam – 31.3%
  • Poland – 30.3%
  • Spain – 29.4%
  • Romania -28.9%
  • Portugal – 28.7%

Key insights:

  • What do successful businesses survive on? A powerful combination of access to financial services and products; ease of doing business; strong support for SMEs and quality governance, as seen in New Zealand (74.2 points, 1st), Sweden (71.3, 2nd), Canada (70.9, 3rd), the United States (70.8, 4th) and Singapore (69.2, 5th), which took the top five spots on the Index.
  • Entrepreneurship is seen as a ticket to opportunity for women, as shown in markets like Philippines (68.0, 9th), Botswana (66.5, 14th), Thailand (65.8, 15th), Poland (65.4, 19th) and Costa Rica (65.0, 20th). Although supporting conditions for entrepreneurs in these markets are not as conducive, they have a strong representation of female business leaders, professionals and technical workers, a vibrant local entrepreneurship landscape, and high regard for the status of successful entrepreneurs.
  • Korea (53.2 to 57.2, 44th) tracked the biggest improvement in Index score, driven by a surge in entrepreneurial activities. The growth of the Korean female business landscape may have been fueled by positive perceptions of successful women executives and the set-up of a task force for gender parity.
  • The progress of women entrepreneurs was held back by one or more obstacles in nearly all of the 57 economies covered. These obstacles are largely caused by perceptions of gender bias, which contribute to poor social and cultural acceptance, lack of self-belief and access to financial funding or venture capital.
    In fact, a lack of self-belief can be especially potent in deterring women from starting their own businesses. In markets like Belgium (25.5%, 22nd), Germany (25.3, 24th), and the United Kingdom (25.0, 27th) the percentage of female business ownership in the market is lower than expected, despite having efficient regulatory systems and high access to resources.
  • However, a will always forges a way. In necessity-driven markets such as Indonesia (62.4, 30th), Ghana (61.5, 33rd), Brazil (61.1, 35th), Mexico (60.2, 38th), Uganda (57.6, 43rd) and Nigeria (56.4, 45th), women are as likely as men to engage in entrepreneurship. Such enterprises are likely to be in the informal sector, are less-technologically intensive, small in scale and assume the form of self-employment.
  • Although markets in the Middle East and Africa region such as United Arab Emirates (49.5, 49th), Tunisia (45.2, 51st) and Saudi Arabia (39.3, 54th) may have tracked the some of the lowest scores in the Index, they also report the highest average growth expectations among women at 37%. Over half of women entrepreneurs in the UAE and Tunisia expect to hire 6 or more employees in the next 5 years. Women in Saudi Arabia are more likely than men to have these ambitions to grow their businesses.


The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalize on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments and is the weighted sum of three components:

  • Women’s Advancement Outcomes (degree of bias against women as workforce participants, political and business leaders, as well as the financial strength and entrepreneurial inclination of women), 
  • Knowledge Assets and Financial Access (degree of access women have to basic financial services, advanced knowledge assets, and support for small and medium enterprises), and
  • Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions (overall perceptions on the ease on conducting business locally, quality of local governance, women’s perception of safety levels and cultural perception of women’s household financial influence).