An infographic depicting the percentage share of formal firms that are owned by women in Africa. Data from the World Bank.
Many women, to avoid costly and time-consuming registration procedures, keep from upsetting husbands or elder male kin, and other reasons, choose a life as an informal entrepreneur as the only means of earning needed income for their families.
While everyone is not cut out to run a formal enterprise, many women who run informal enterprises would rather work at a formal enterprise. The more accessible and comfortable formal enterprise becomes for women, the more jobs they can create for their communities and the more profits and income those communities can acquire. Yes, men may certainly own formal enterprises, but why shut out half the population?
“You need to appreciate two things about women”, he started. “First, women fear prison. A man might steal millions, calculate that he will be sent to prison and come out a year later to enjoy the money, ” he said.
“Women don’t think like that”, he said. “A man goes to prison and comfortably leaves his wife to look after the children. No woman will choose to go to prison and leave her husband to look after the children”, he pressed on. The reason is obvious.
Partly because of that fear, he argued, women are less corrupt than men.
Secondly, he said, “in traditional African societies, women don’t chase after men. It is still mostly men who chase women”.
So what has that got to do with anything? “Men feel they have to impress women, and many go to great lengths to do so”, he said.
“Because their desire to impress is often greater than their means, they end up stealing public funds” with which to buy nice cars, gifts, and so on.
He was not done. “Even where a woman chases a man, she does not have to buy so many expensive gifts to get him. So she is likely to get a man of her choice on her salary”, he said.
While the global development industry comes to grips with male-female dynamics using randomized control trials and other advanced techniques, one old man shares some powerful insights contained essentially in Africa’s oral history, recent as well as ancient. I wish I could read or hear about more of these kinds of conversations. Or have some myself.
CIPE’s Lauren Citrome gets real about motherhood, women’s empowerment, and development progress:
By allowing pregnancy and motherhood to slow women’s participation in the public sphere, countries miss out on the benefits of having women in office, such as increases in spending on education and decreases in corruption.
So why divorce family matters from discussions of public life for women?