Research Student: Dr Christiana Abonge
Women’s microenterprise development: An effective strategy for poverty reduction in the North West province of Cameroon?
The thesis designated by the above title set out mainly to explore the contributions of micro enterprise development programmes to reductions in poverty in North Western Cameroon.
By strongly acquiescing to the centrality of women's micro and small scale enterprise (WMSE) activities as a major source of livelihood, the study advocates the position of WMSEs cum micro enterprise support in mitigating the effects of poverty through the contributions of enterprise support programmes.
The main argument in the thesis revolves around the fundamental contributions of WMSE activities to household livelihood and survival.
Female entrepreneurs in the study sample are unemployed with the MSE activity operated as the major income earning activity for entrepreneurs. In addition to generating personal income for entrepreneurs, these activities also have latent outcomes to women's position within the household.
Evidence from field data suggests that WMSEs ensure economic independence, higher self esteem and a higher status for a majority of female entrepreneurs. In spite of the significance of WMSE activities, the business and economic environments present considerable challenges to the growth and productivity of these activities and hence a major limitation to their poverty enhancing role.
The perceived importance of WMSEs in generating income for household survival has garnered the interest of micro enterprise support targeted at WMSEs.
Because of the concern and the challenges encountered by WMSEs, support programmes aim to reach out to poor entrepreneurs with improved access to financial resources, training and capacity building as a means of raising their productivity and potential. This notwithstanding, the use of group collateral and other criteria as guiding conditions to access support services tend to restrict the outreach of programme services to others who are also in need of enterprise support.
Although micro enterprise development support suffices as an agent of transformation for WMSEs and a preferred strategy to promote WMSEs, programmes reinforce women's concentration in gendered low return MSE activities.
Whilst the credit plus approach tends to be the focus of enterprise support, programmes nevertheless pay little attention to nonfinancial services, the business and economic environments and women's reproductive role as critical challenges to the productivity and poverty enhancing task of female entrepreneurs and WMSE activities.