Small and medium enterprises ( SMEs) especially those in the informal sector hire about 80 percent of the work force in most African nations and are the backbone of the continent’s economic development.
As of 2019, globally, there are 9.4 million female owned SMEs in over 140 nations, but Africa is the only continent where more women than men are entrepreneurs. Women traders participate in 74% of SME informal transboundary trade in most African nations. Females also comprise more than 50% of the SME work force. Given their high representation in this sector, there is an urgency to strengthen their capacity and access to financial, technical capital and business, trade and other relevant legal knowledge.
SMEs also comprise more than 50% of the services sectors ( in most African nations) but only 8% of the manufacturing sector. Reason for higher labor representation in the services sector than in manufacturing sector is partly because the former does not require high skills than the manufacturing sector. Therefore, most unskilled and uneducated female workers make an honest living in the informal, small and medium enterprise sector through hawking their products on street corners. But the ban on street hawking in most African nations which had good intentions of protecting their human safety and environmental aesthetics also had bad consequences of forcing some of them (e.g. enterprising female hawkers) into unemployment and desperation, including survival tactics of crime and/or sex trade.
Women are not the only ones suffering from immense fragility, but African youth are also having similar experiences. In 2015, Africa’s youth comprised 226 million (about 20%) of Africa’s 1.1 billion population. In 2019, 75% of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion is below age 35. By 2050, 2 of every five children will be born in Africa (World Economic Forum, 2020). The continent has a youth bulge and by 2050, Africa’s youth population (18 to 35 years) is predicted to be more than 800 million. But most of the youth are marginalized and excluded from the employment and economic development process. 60 % of them (youth) are either unemployed or underemployed.