Female-led businesses represent the majority share of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Ghana and operate mainly in the informal sector. Informality is a key characteristic of the Ghanaian economy in general and is significant in areas such as manufacturing, agriculture/agribusiness and services (Mastercard Index for Women Entrepreneurs, 2020). Despite women’s contribution to business and economic growth in Ghana, their businesses face a myriad of challenges, including limited access to financing resources, information asymmetry, lack of technical and managerial skills, and exclusion from business incentives from state and private sources (Dzansi et al., 2021; BaahBoateng et al., 2013; Junior & Senior, 2020); Boohene, Sheridan and Kotey, 2008). The Covid-19 pandemic has further worsened the fortunes of female-led MSMEs due to women’s overwhelming exposure to greatly impacted sectors—manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, accommodation, food services and petty trading of various kinds. The introduction of lockdowns, social-distancing protocols and travel/ movement restrictions grounded several businesses and collapsed many others.
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1. The World of a Female-SME Owner In Tamale During The COVID-19 Pandemic
2. COVID-19 and Business Aspirations of a Young Female Entrepreneur
3. Mixed Impact of COVID-19 On Young and Small Start-Up Business
With the decline in demand for goods and services, female business owners in the informal sector, who are more likely to be excluded from relief support from the state, are more exposed to the economic shocks, which increases their vulnerability and affects their living conditions (Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, 2020; African Development Bank, 2020). This study sought to understand the coping mechanisms, survival strategies, access to support and resilience of female-led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in Ghana. The study was conducted in six districts (three rural, three urban) in the Northern, Ashanti and Greater Accra regions of Ghana. It employed qualitative methods and drew on both primary and secondary sources of information for the analysis. Research participants were female and male MSME owners of two age cohorts—youth and young adults (18–35 years), and adults (36 years and above). Although the focus of the research was on female-led businesses, male business owners were included to provide comparative data for analysis. Sampling was done from two different populations—business owners in the study districts who had not participated in any known intervention and business owners in the study districts who had participated in the Youth Forward Initiative (YFI).
The YFI was a five-year intervention implemented in Ghana by a consortium of NGOs and funded by the Mastercard Foundation, to train and support young people (female and male) in the agricultural (cocoa) and construction sectors to set up their own businesses. The inclusion of intervention and non-intervention participants was to provide further insights into the realities and coping strategies of businesses managed by people with different experiences and exposures. This also allowed for wider coverage of female businesses and the nuances of the informal sector in both urban and rural areas. In each of the selected districts, 20 individuals who owned MSMEs were interviewed. Additionally, two focus group discussions (FGDs) and two key informant interviews (KIIs) were done with relevant stakeholders, including NGOs and local government authorities and business/trade associations, who were working or interested in women’s economic empowerment. In total, 120 individual interviews, 12 FGDs and 12 KIIs were conducted involving 173 unique male and female participants.