In new research by Mastercard, 81 per cent of the Middle East and Africa’s (MEA) women entrepreneurs have a digital presence for their businesses, compared to 68 per cent of their male counterparts.
The study reveals that despite the gender gap and social challenges, entrepreneurial women across the world and in the region and across the globe are leading the way in tapping into the power of the digital economy to succeed and grow.
According to Mastercard, women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) believe there are huge benefits of a cash-free economy to their businesses.
The digital footprint among the women in the region reveals that 71 per cent of the women entrepreneurs have social media presence followed by those with company websites at 57 per cent.
In the Middle East and North Africa, 71 per cent of women entrepreneurs had a website compared to the 55 per cent who had a social media presence.
The Mastercard MEA SME Confidence Index also showed that more than 80 per cent of women entrepreneurs have digital readiness for their business compared to their male counterparts yet, so few have access to funding for their business growth.
Across the globe, businesses owned by women are well-represented in the entrepreneurship space. However, it is estimated that their access to commercial bank finance is only between 2 and 10 per cent.
“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 Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, Middle East, and Africa, Mastercard.
The study further noted that confidence levels around digital transactions are high with 30 per cent of women entrepreneurs in MEA experiencing no challenges in accepting more payments digitally versus cash payments.
Mobile payments led with 62 per cent of the women agreeing that it is their preferred choice, 57 per cent favoured online payments, while 45 per cent only use card payments.
In Southern Africa, this confidence is further elevated with 67 per cent seeing no challenges to accepting more payments digitally.
Growing confidence levels in digital as a business imperative are 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, 60 per cent of women entrepreneurs highlighted the increased efficiency of transactions across multiple channels and the ease of not handling or processing cash equaling the same.
A total of 59 per cent of the women also appreciated having a more convenient way of paying suppliers and employees, 55 per cent faster access to revenues, 53 per cent less potential for fraud, and 50 per cent access to new business growth opportunities.
Women Entrepreneurs are Innovative Risk-Takers
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 behaviour 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 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 the female entrepreneurs (48.7 per cent) 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.