Entrepreneurship is a significant source of women’s economic opportunity – employment and income generation – for both urban and rural women in low-income countries. Women entrepreneurs may participate in a wide range of activities, from undertaking income generation projects in their homes, to selling products in open markets and the street, to owning or managing a business in a fixed location with one or more employees. Typical interventions to increase these women’s earnings include credit, savings and insurance vehicles; business training; technical assistance; women’s enterprises and women’s business networks.


Summary of Lessons

Simply put, capital alone, either as a small loan or grant, is not enough to grow women’s subsistence-level businesses.

Very poor women need more comprehensive services in order to break free from low-earning subsistence-level businesses, rather than single services or small levels of capital (in-kind, grants or loans).

Pairing a relatively high-value asset with specific business training and follow-up technical visits can expand occupational choices and increase earnings. While providing more services is often expensive up front, it leads to a greater standard of living and is also cost effective over time.

In Bangladesh, women who received a choice of a large asset (livestock valued at about USD $140) combined with specific training and follow up visits increased their earnings by 34 percent.

For women with larger, more profitable businesses, loans and grants (capital) yield larger profits, particularly when delivered inkind (e.g., in the form of inventory) so that there is less temptation to divert cash resources from the business for household uses.

Additionally, financial services delivered through mobile phones can effectively help women grow their businesses, because it allows women to keep their financial transactions private.

In Niger, households that received cash via mobile phones bought a wider variety of goods, spent less money during crisis periods and grew more types of crops than those receiving cash using other methods. The researchers hypothesized that these positive outcomes were the result of the low cost of using the mobile to transfer cash and the greater privacy the mobile gave women to elect how to spend the transfer.

Business training has been shown to improve business practices, but does not increase the profits of subsistence-level women-owned firms.

Increasing the quality and duration of training, providing follow-up customized technical assistance and targeting women running larger sized firms shows promise in helping women increase their earnings.

There is growing consensus that providing women and girls with access to reliable savings products is a smart investment that is proven to increase the earnings of self-employed women.


Microfinance in Northeast Thailand: Who Benefits and How Much?

This paper evaluates the outreach and impact of two micro_nance programs in Thailand, controlling for endogenous self-selection and program placement. Results indicate that the wealthier villagers are signi_cantly more likely to participate than the poor. Moreover, the wealthiest often become program committee members and borrow substantially more than rank-and-_le members. However, local information on creditworthiness is also used to select members. The programs positively a_ect household welfare for committee members, but impact is insigni_cant for rank-and-_le members.

When is Capital Enough to Get Microenterprises Growing? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Ghana

Standard models of investment predict that credit-constrained firms should grow rapidly when given additional capital, and that how this capital is provided should not affect decisions to invest in the business or consume the capital. We randomly gave cash and in-kind grants to male- and female-owned microenterprises in urban Ghana. Our findings cast doubt on the ability of capital alone to stimulate the growth of female microenterprises.

The Impact of Credit on Village Economies

This paper evaluates the short-term impact of Thailand's 'Million Baht Village Fund' program, among the largest scale government microfinance iniative in the world, using pre- and post-program panel data and quasi-experimental cross-village variation in credit-per-household. We found that the village funds have increased total short-term credit, consumption, agricultural investment, income growth (from business and labor), but decreased overall asset growth. We also found a positive impact on wages, an important general equilibrium effect.

Managing Resources, Activities and Risk in Urban India: The Impact of SEWA Bank

This study measures the impact of microfinance services of Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) on low-income women of Ahmedabad, in India. The explicit hypothesis was that specific impact may be found at three different levels - household, enterprise and the individual level. The data used for cross section and longitudinal statistical tests was from surveys conducted in 1998 and 2000 for 798 respondents. The researchers also carried out complementary analyses. The clients of SEWA were poor and belonged to backward sections of society.

Business Literacy and Development: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Rural Mexico

This paper investigates the effectiveness of basic business training for female entrepreneurs in rural Mexico. Through a Randomized Controlled Trial and panel data on a representative sample of female entrepreneurs, we estimate positive effects of basic applied business training on profits, revenues and number of clients served. At the same time we find a positive effect on the use of "formal" accounting techniques. These effects are estimated in the short-run, about seven months after the end of the business classes, the only treatment offered to our sample of female entrepreneurs.

Creating incentives to save among microfinance borrowers: a behavioral experiment from Guatemala

We report on an experiment in which a new set of commercial savings products, informed by the behavioral finance literature, were offered to the microfinance borrowers of Guatemala's largest public-sector bank. We find that prompting savings at the time of loan repayment leads savings deposits to double relative to the control, and framing a contribution of 10% of the loan payment causes them to double again. Loan repayment and savings accumulation appear to be complementary.

Getting to the Top of Mind: How Reminders Increase Saving

We develop and test a simple model of limited attention in intertemporal choice. The model posits that individuals fully attend to consumption in all periods but fail to attend to some future lumpy expenditure opportunities. This asymmetry generates some predictions that overlap with models of present-bias. Our model also generates the unique predictions that reminders may increase saving, and that reminders will be more effective when they increase the salience of a specific expenditure.

Group Lending or Individual Lending? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment in Mongolia

Although microfinance institutions across the world are moving from group lending towards individual lending, this strategic shift is not substantiated by sufficient empirical evidence on the impact of both types of lending on borrowers. We present such evidence from a randomised field experiment in rural Mongolia. We find a positive impact of access to group loans on food consumption and entrepreneurship. Among households that were offered group loans the likelihood of owning an enterprise increases by 10 per cent more than in control villages.

Subsidizing Vocational Training for Disadvantaged Youth in Colombia: Evidence from a Randomized Trial

This paper evaluates the impact of a randomized training program for disadvantaged youth introduced in Colombia in 2005. This randomized trial offers a unique opportunity to examine the impact of training in a middle income country. We use originally collected data on individuals randomly offered and not offered training. The program raises earnings and employment for women. Women offered training earn 19.6 percent more and have a 0.068 higher probability of paid employment than those not offered training, mainly in formal-sector jobs.

Teaching Entrepreneurship: Impact of Business Training on Microfinance Clients and Institutions

Can one teach basic entrepreneurship skills, or are they fixed personal characteristics? Most academic and development policy discussions about microentrepreneurs focus on their access to credit, and assume their human capital to be fixed. The self-employed poor rarely have any formal training in business skills. However, a growing number of microfinance organizations are attempting to build the human capital of micro-entrepreneurs in order to improve the livelihood of their clients and help further their mission of poverty alleviation.