The growth of female entrepreneurship across the African continent is an incredibly promising phenomenon. A few months ago, I decided to educate myself about the growth of female entrepreneurship in Ghana. Recently, I have been learning more about how female entrepreneurship in Cameroon has made an impact not only economically, but also culturally.
The most common theme I have seen in these reports is that by providing women with the opportunity to gain financial independence and demonstrate their capabilities outside of the household, they can make lasting changes on their countries economy and society.
There even exist organizations such as the Cameroon Women’s Business Leaders Association. CWBLA works to promote female leadership in the economy and empower young women to pursue their interests and career goals. According to their website, the CWBLA conducts conferences, awareness campaigns and partnership agreements with similar groups to help spur the growth of female leaders in Cameroon and neighboring countries.
Cameroon, located in Central Africa, was officially named the Republic of Cameroon in 1984. This came many years after both British and French colonial rule. Agriculture has long been the most profitable area of the Republic’s economy. Plus, roughly half of the citizens live in rural areas. Therefore, it is natural that women seek employment in the agricultural industry.
Women in Cameroon will tend to stick with services and career paths that they are familiar with. The issue here is being able to provide rural communities with the knowledge and resources to seek employment in other sectors of the economy. In order to advance, one must first have the opportunity and the tools necessary to unlock their potential.
Cameroon remains a patriarchal society with women typically expected to look after children and maintain the household.
Nevertheless, Cameroon is the African country with the third highest rate of female entrepreneurs, after Nigeria and South Africa.
In Sub-Saharan Africa women own only one third of businesses. The rise of female entrepreneurship in Cameroon and many other African countries offers greater potential for gender equality, economic growth and financial independence for women. A recent news report by France 24 looked at the different ways in which female-owned businesses are having an impact on Cameroon’s economy. Surprisingly, there are increasingly more women getting employment in sectors traditionally reserved for men.
And this is a good thing. As previously mentioned, there appears to be a trend of women remaining in the agricultural industry with little wiggle room for promotion. However, recent efforts to involve Cameroonian women in all areas of the economy are making a strong impact.
For example, Audrey Yetna Chicot, one of Cameroon’s entrepreneurs interviewed by France 24, runs her own mechanical manufacturing business (MSMI: ‘Multi Services et Matériel Industriel). Male workers traditionally make up the core of manufacturing companies. Yetna is actively working to decrease this kind of gender disparity in the workplace. She wants to give women of Cameroon the opportunity to engage in this business and learn the skills necessary to perform such a job.
Just last year Yetna had hired eight women to join her company and plans on hiring many more. Yetna hopes to make Cameroon an industrialized country by 2035 and in turn provide greater gender equality in the workplace.
Yetna’s male employees mentioned to France 24 that they were initially hesitant about working under Yetna. Ultimately, they were not used to receiving orders from a female boss. Yet, they came to respect and value their boss and have realized just how intelligent and capable she really is.
Gender has nothing to do with one’s ability to succeed and grow in the workplace. A person’s skills, drive and potential are what make them successful.
An enormous part of providing women in developing countries with the tools to start their own business and obtain a stable job is achieving financial independence. Many courses and coaching sessions have popped up around Cameroon. The intent of these sessions is to provide these women with the resources and knowledge to eventually become financially independent.
Louise Talla gives coaching sessions for her fellow Cameroonians. She mentions that her goal is to teach these women that they don’t need to depend on someone else for their well being or security. Talla tells France 24 that she wants each woman in Cameroon to have the ability to be in charge of their future.
It is common knowledge that women-led businesses tend to grow slower than businesses led by males in developing countries. This doesn’t necessarily mean that female-led businesses are less efficient or stable. Instead, it shows us that perhaps these businesses suffer from resource constraints. This could be due to socio-cultural and structural inequalities that favor men.
Regardless, being intertwined in these complex social and cultural structures – often rooted in the idea of women having their place in the domestic sphere – can affect a woman’s access to resources, trust, funding and legal security.
Learning to battle business networks, getting a loan and working their way up the social ladder can be much harder. This is why there are institutions and individuals who actively seek to eliminate these invisible obstacles to business growth.
Cameroon’s female leaders are setting a clear message for the women in their country: you are capable and you are intelligent enough. Cameroonians such as Audrey Yetna Chicot demonstrate that women are the future for the Republic’s economy. Their hard work, determination and intelligence are a strong asset for the country’s growth.