How can we better support women entrepreneurs in agriculture?

Anta Babacar Ngom

Women entrepreneurs are key to Africa’s economic growth

Over the past 30 years, significant efforts have been made to compensate the gender gap on the African continent. Some initiatives have been successful, others less so. One initiative that has made progress is the promotion of women’s right to economic freedom, particularly in terms of advocacy and awareness raising. In Senegal, societal awareness of the issue has increased and more effort has been made to support women in business, as a result. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the rate of entrepreneurial activity among women has increased to 36.8% – the highest rate in sub-Saharan Africa.

Changing attitudes

Within SEDIMA Group – which specialises in the production and marketing of chicks, poultry, eggs and livestock feed, as well as the distribution of poultry equipment – we have ingrained gender equality as a company value. Women employees are not subject to any kind of discrimination and the same responsibilities are allocated for men and women at all levels of the company. I strongly believe that investing in women’s leadership results in positive social impacts. It is generally acknowledged in our society that women are more likely to reinvest the fruits of their economic activities in their households than men, which naturally contributes to the wellbeing of the community.

Traditionally, women’s entrepreneurship has been rather informal and community-based, as support has been limited to micro-activities focused on generating income for women to look after their families. This has meant that women have historically been confined to downstream agricultural activities such as small-scale cereal processing. Today, the trend has changed dramatically. It is said that 62.9% of women entrepreneurs in Senegal created their businesses in response to opportunities rather than out of necessity. In spite of this progress, I am convinced that we – women entrepreneurs – face greater difficulties when it comes to access to financial and non-financial services than before.

SEDIMA’s approach to empower women

When it comes to promoting women’s entrepreneurship in agribusiness, SEDIMA Group has a two-pronged approach. First, we are actively participating in initiatives that specifically contribute to women’s empowerment. There is a plethora of foundations, associations, investment clubs and other types of solutions available to women that we take part in. In addition, we have set up a programme to promote agribusiness entrepreneurship, which involves provision of mentoring and technical support, and helps participants to secure opportunities.

The key principle of this project is to provide poultry farmers with chicks, veterinary services and feed. At the end of the breeding process we buy all the production for our slaughterhouse and collaborate with relevant partners to ensure the distribution of a premium ready-to-cook chicken. Thus, we contribute to developing the sustainability of women poultry farmers’ businesses and, ultimately, develop our own business.

Supporting the next generation

With the right support, women agribusiness leaders can gain the self-confidence that will allow them to win the trust of their first customers and partners. For a bright future for women in agribusiness, it is important to bring together financial and non-financial players to set up a hybrid and multi-faceted support system to reach out to a new generation of African women, who have understood that the time is now to invest in agribusiness in Africa. I strongly believe the economic development of the continent will be at least 50% driven by these women.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.