REPOSITIONING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS IN A DEPRESSED GLOBAL ECONOMY: THE NIGERIA EXPERIENCE
F.O. Achoja and J.A. Eyaefe
Department of Agricultural Economics & Extension, Delta State University, Asaba Campus
Women entrepreneurs occupy very important position in the economic growth and development of a nation. They are regarded as economic managers whose activities can salvage a nation from the global economic meltdown. It is important to investigate their role in economic recovery process of a nation. This paper x-rays the challenges of women entrepreneurs to include: lack of accessibility to productive resources and poor socio-economic environment that influence their activities. The need for paradigm shift, economic policy evolution was emphasized. It was indicated in the paper that women entrepreneurs need to be repositioned to be able to deal with the global economic melt down. Women entrepreneurs need to invest more and acquire relevant knowledge to transform the economic fortune. They should turn themselves to change agents. All these will be a pointer to global economic recovery.
Keywords: Repositioning, women entrepreneurs, depressed economy, globalization, change agents.
An economy is a system of management of resources and money in a society. Every economy has managers of resources (the entrepreneurs). Entrepreneurs are the principal factors in the success or failure of the economy. Women entrepreneurs are referred to as women economic managers. The entrepreneurs pilot the affairs and the direction of an economic system. Hence, a successful economic order relies heavily on the efficiency of the entrepreneur. To that extent, they are also referred to as the pivot of a successful economic order. Evidence has shown that women entrepreneurs are more numerically and are efficient, whether locally or globally. No economy is in isolation from other economies of the world. There is interdependence of economies in the world.
Globalization is the process of increasing integration of nation states into the world civilization. Globalization encourages the weakening of territorial boundaries and barriers of nations in various areas of human endeavors via; political, ideological, socio-economic and cultural spheres. Babangida (1992), maintained that globalization promotes the liberalization and intensification of international linkage in agriculture, trade, finance, market, production, research, transportation, energy, medicine, education, politics, and culture. According to Osuji (2003), globalization is the revolution in communication and information technology, trade liberalization, formation of regional organizations such as the economic community of West African states (ECOWAS) etc, high mobility of capital and labour. The sum total of these developments is what we are looking at. All these have contributed to reduce the world to a global village wherein what happens in one part of the globe is immediately known in other parts. Meaning that globalization is the emphasis on an increasingly dependent world, accelerated by convergence.
In economic terms, globalization refers to “the rapid integration of economics worldwide through trade, financial flows, technological spillovers, information networks and cross-cultural current affairs. Thus globalization has given rise to a global market anchored on an international financial system. The principle of contagious now explains how ripples in the world can have instant repercussions in other parts. Organizations operating in this environment, therefore, make decisions on global considerations rather than on country-specific interests. The whole globe is treated as a market place rather than any specific country. This is the underlying basis for what has been termed the new economic order and the aim is to carry out economic activities on a global scale, without undue regard for geographical or political borders.
This has created a unique opportunity for thorough self-assessment and reposition for a nation’s economic policy. Globalization has fundamental implications and this is more so in view of the peculiar circumstance of developing countries such as Nigeria.The implications, relevant to the subject of our topic, include the challenges posed for the Nigerian products. Thus, producers of goods and services now face stiff competition from their counterparts within and from outside the country. The situation of Nigerian women entrepreneurs is precarious because they are not well equipped to face the competition. This is due to operational domestic environment, which is remarkably non-enabling. The operating environment is characterized by anti-investment factors such as unpredictable political environment, poor infrastructures, epileptic power supply, unreliable telecommunications, payment of multiple levies and taxes, non-availability of water supply, lack of security, high naira exchange, high interest rate, inefficient transport system and weak consumer purchasing power.
In view of the scenario describe above, it is obvious that the playing field is not level for all competitors. The Nigerian women entrepreneurs are actually disadvantaged in the game of competition.
It is therefore desirable for the Nigerian government to enhance the Nigerian women entrepreneurs by equipping them to cope with the challenges of global economic melt-down. According to Lipsey (1980), an economic depression is characterized by heavy unemployment, a low level of consumers demand and a substantial amount of unused industrial capacity. Business profit melts down, confidence and hope of entrepreneurs melt down, and entrepreneurs will be unwilling to take risks in making new investments. Banks and other financial institutions have surplus funds that no entrepreneur wishes to borrow. Even when they borrow, loan repayment by entrepreneurs is difficult due to profit melt down and low business activities. Hence economic meltdown has its own peculiar challenges and strategies.
In this connection, women entrepreneurs have three (3) interrelated challenges, namely:
- The search for new knowledge through relevant research;
- Enabling environment for the importation of new knowledge and skills to the economy. Thus serving as the major Instrument for manpower development and investment and,
- Foster the critical assessment of the value system particularly, corruption in present society (Anya, 2002).
Economic recovery will require a modification of the role and relevance of women entrepreneurs. There is an added urgency to the needs of the women entrepreneurs to re-invent new ideas and redefine their responsibilities. In the national context, the most challenging problem facing the women entrepreneurs includes: new responsibilities, new obligations and strategic choices ( Lipsey, 1980).
Challenges of women entrepreneurs in a depressed economy
Adelaja (2004), reported that women entrepreneurs controls only 1% of the manufacturing sector in Nigeria. Also in Tanzania, the population of women entrepreneur is 2.8% (Tanzania Ministry of Trade, 2000). Similarly, Wilma and Allen (1998), maintained that the global economic development resources and property ownership are concentrated in the hands of more men than women. Women rarely have property which they can offer as collateral to secure loans. The study done by Dejardin and Awad (1995), point to the fact that the access of women entrepreneurs to credit is greatly restricted. Women entrepreneurs have more difficulties in obtaining credit facilities (Okojie, 2004), even though they perform better in loan repayment tendency (Achoja and Ideh, 2005).
The difficulty of limited access to credit negatively affects their effective participation in economic growth of Nigeria. The degree of challenges women entrepreneurs face in their participation in economic development varies from society to society. To that extent, Rais (2002), maintained that globally, women entrepreneurs constitute a disadvantaged group of economic agents. Studies have shown that greater proportion of the Nigerian population, their participation in entrepreneurial ventures, if fully exploited will bring about significant contribution in the recovery process of a depressed economy. The challenge of not accessing credit facilities tends to negatively affect the performance of women entrepreneurs, given the critical role of credit in entrepreneurial success. According to Hambo (2002), financial institutions and other lenders in Nigeria discriminate in favour of men in granting long term loans to entrepreneurs.
Accordingly, Ojo (2002), observed that enterprises owned and managed by women are consequentially small with low success. Without a remarkable success it becomes practically impossible for women entrepreneurs to contribute effectively to national economic growth and development. According to a demographic and health survey, carried out by national planning commission (1996), female-headed house-holds constituted 23% in south-east Nigeria, 19% in south-west Nigeria, 6% in north-east, and 5% in north-west. This implies that many Nigerian women entrepreneurs at least 16 million of them, largely live in poverty (National Planning Commission, 1996; Eyaefe, 2008). They bear the border of taking care of their handicapped husbands and children alone. This means that they virtually initiate and execute numerous money yielding projects to be able to ensure the survival of their families. Another group of such women entrepreneurs is that of the single mothers. They are not married but they have many children (Ogbene 2005). All these tend to negatively affect their entrepreneurial performance in developing economy such as Nigeria.
The point at which an economic depression turns into recovery is often characterized by increase in employment, income and a rise in consumers spending. Expectations become more favorable as a result of increases in production, sales volume and profits. Investments that once seemed risky may now be undertaken as business climate improves. Business opinion begins to change from one of pessimism to one of optimism. As demand expands, production can be expanded with relative ease by employing the existing unused capacity and unemployed labour.
Changing global socio-economic scenarios have existed throughout known history in the term of phases of economic cycles. Marx (1964), for instance, related the sequence of these phases to the changing mode of production and consequent relationships. Weber (1930), connected it more with different ideologies. Durkheim (1964), elaborated this view of ever changing economic scenario and proposed that economic activities cannot be understood apart from the moral and political institutions that mold the context and shape of economic behaviour. Anya (2002), categorized levels of economic development into: (i) factor – driven economy or floor income economy (low level) (ii) investment – driven economy (middle income economy) and, (iii) innovation – driven – economy (high income economy). Nigeria is stuck at the factor – driven level and does not yet have the structural depth that can attract foreign investments except in oil and gas.
The need for paradigm shift, evolution of economic policy and the way to economic recovery.
This is the reason why a paradigm shift to the nations stock of human capital (entrepreneurs) is now the most critical factor that will determine its international competitiveness and hence it’s potential to develop. A paradigm that influences the thinking and policy framework of development economist is imperative. This will usher the economy into investment- driven, and then innovation-driven phases.
In dealing with the global economic meltdown policy effort should be directed at the following: production, integration, moral, political institutions and strategic choice. More importantly is the role of saving and investment in the creation of employment. Employment will put more money in the hands of consumers. This is what stimulates the economy to grow. Where the women entrepreneurs are unable to do all these alone, government may give credit as incentive for production.
Repositioning women entrepreneurs for economic recovery
Dimensions of effort at repositioning women entrepreneurs in a depressed economy include:
(i). the acquisition of relevant knowledge in the area of information and communication technology. The world is turning computerized and only women entrepreneurs who are proficient in ICT will get along with global trends. Converting idea to product by women entrepreneurs can turn around the economic fortune of the country.
(ii). Women entrepreneurs should begin to consider the option of property ownership through cooperative approach. This will enable them to meet the requirement for loan acquisition.
(iii). Contracting/consultancy as knowledge providers. Women entrepreneurs should acquire new kind of top management system which is an extension of operating management. One of the most important jobs ahead for the top management of the economy will be to stimulate and balance the supply-demand nexus. These will be the building blocks of the new economic order.
(iv). More importantly is the fact that without growth in the agricultural sector, sustained economic recovery in developing countries such as Nigeria will be very unlikely. To these extent women entrepreneurs in agriculture deserve special incentives from the government and donor agencies.
(v) Appropriated sector policy on economic environment must be formulated. This can restore incentive to the agricultural sector, minimize unit cost in domestic production/marketing system and ensure competitiveness of agricultural tradables in local, regional and international markets.
(vi). Making women entrepreneurs as change agents. To survive and succeed, every economic agent (women entrepreneurs) will have to become change agents. The most effective way to manage change successfully is to create it. This involves continuous improvement of every product, service and process within the economy. The change agent changes the mindset of the entire organization positively towards efficiency. Instead of seeing change as a threat, people will consider it as an opportunity.
Conclusion and recommendation
This new society is a knowledge based economy. The prospect of this society belongs to women entrepreneurs who are equipped with relevant knowledge in production and marketing. As a result of women in business, schools, hospitals, agriculture and government agencies have to be globally competitive. Relevant information is the super highway to economic transformation. This is because the internet will keep customers every where informed on what is available, their qualities anywhere in the world and at what prices. The future economy will rely heavily on knowledge workers, particularly, the women entrepreneurs. It is only strategic knowledge can revive the ailing economic order (the economic melt down). Also investment is the engine that drives the economy. The capacity of women entrepreneurs should be enhanced through credit support and education program
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