A new report now indicates that women entrepreneurs and in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) are leading the way in tapping into the power of the digital economy to succeed and grow.
According to the inaugural Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index, women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) believe there are huge benefits of a cash-free economy to their businesses.
As such, 81 percent of the region’s women entrepreneurs have a digital presence for their businesses, compared to 68 percent of their male counterparts.
In terms of a digital footprint of the region’s women entrepreneurs, social media (71 percent) leads the way, followed by a company website (57 percent).
In the Middle East and North Africa, more women entrepreneurs had a website (71 percent) than a social media presence (55 percent).
It also found that over 80 percent of women entrepreneurs have digital readiness for their business compared to their male counterparts.
Commenting on the finding, Mastercard’s Executive Vice President, Market Development for MEA Amnah Ajmal said that despite this, there are still so few women who have access to funding for their business growth.
According to the Vice President, women-owned businesses are well represented in the entrepreneurship space globally, yet it is estimated that they only access between 2 and 10 percent of commercial bank finance.
“This reflects the huge potential SME women entrepreneurs have when we accelerate their access to financial and digital tools which will enable greater gender parity in the business ecosystem,” said Amnah.
From presence to payments, digital and cash-free economy leads
According to the Mastercard survey, confidence levels around digital transactions are high with 30 percent of women entrepreneurs in MEA experiencing no challenges in accepting more payments digitally versus cash payments – especially mobile payments (62 percent), online payments (57 percent) and card payments (45 percent).
In Southern Africa this confidence is further elevated with two-thirds (67 percent) seeing no challenges to accepting more payments digitally.
Growing confidence levels in digital as a business imperative is tied to a deeper understanding and wider recognition among SMEs of the advantages that result from a growing digital economy.
When asked about the biggest benefits of a cash-free economy to their businesses, women entrepreneurs highlighted the increased efficiency of transactions across multiple channels (60 percent) and the ease of not handling or processing cash (60 percent).
They also appreciated having a more convenient way of paying suppliers and employees (59 percent), faster access to revenues (55 percent), less potential for fraud (53 percent) and access to new business growth opportunities (50 percent).
In the 2020 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), evidence already emerged of how women business owners have reacted to a new world of work with renewed confidence and adaptability, tapping into new business opportunities or realigning their business models to cater to new consumer behavior and local or global needs.
Despite challenges around funding, support and attention, Uganda, Botswana and Ghana were ranked as the world’s three leading economies having the most women business owners (WBO) as a percentage of total business owners in the 2020 MIWE.
The report also mentioned a high regard for risk taking, innovativeness, individuality and creativity in entrepreneurship prevalent in Nigeria and Angola. Growing the contribution of women entrepreneurs is a positive sign, as almost half of female entrepreneurs (48.7 percent) around the world report being driven by a desire to contribute to the greater societal good.
In addition to empowering women-led businesses everywhere with digital payments acceptance tools, Mastercard is also advancing social progress through financial literacy training to encourage the growth of entrepreneurship among women.
This comes on the back of a finding conducted in Kenya indicating that digital devices and services have improved the daily lives of 84 percent of Kenyans.
According to the Dalberg study, nearly one third of Kenyan respondents say that digital presence had boosted their incomes.
The survey highlights uptake in areas beyond mobile money including usage of digital services for supporting livelihoods, e-commerce and e-governance.
The report is based on responses to a nationally representative survey conducted between November-December 2020 of more than 2400 Kenyans.