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AN ASSESSMENT OF PERFORMANCE OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS IN TECHNOLOGICAL AND NON-TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT.
(A STUDY OF SELECTED FIRMS IN ASABA.)
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The phenomenon of business ownership in Nigeria dates back to pre and post-colonial era and involved commercial activities such as wholesale and retail trading of which women were predominant. There were also enterprises such as weaving, fishing, food processing, agricultural production, fashion design, etc. which were much more predominant with the women . Nigeria enjoyed a phenomenal economic growth during the oil boom period of 1973-1980, with per capita GDP rising from N25, 740,000 in 1971 to N128, 700,000 in 1980. Yusuf and Schindehutte, (2000). In this period, despite the dramatic rise in oil revenues, misdirected government policies left the country's economy vulnerable. Public investment was often focusing on costly prestigious and inappropriate infrastructure projects with questionable rates of return. The government also failed to strengthen public finance and pursued expansionary financial policies which created significant inflationary pressures. Inward looking industrial policies also bred a non-competitive manufacturing sector.
The agricultural sector was completely neglected as the real effective exchange rate increased due to rising oil prices. The competitiveness of virtually all non-oil sectors of the economy was eroded. With sustained economic declination, individuals as well as government increasingly set up and encourage entrepreneurship to leverage and possibly eradicate the economic depression. As more Nigerians fail to get employment in the formal and informal sectors, the need to own a business became more attractive and competitive especially for women who do not have as much Opportunity as their male counterparts. There were also associated problems such as difficulty in getting finance, legal requirements, technology, education and skill acquisition, trade unions activities amongst others. These constraints were exacerbated by survival possibility much of which literature, Dickson, (2003); Sarasvathy and Menon,(2002); Engelbrecht, (1996); Loscocco (1991); Micheal, (2004) attributed to depend on entrepreneurial motivation, individual ingenuity, and access to finance among others. The Nigerian industrial sector is dominated by micro and small-scale enterprises, which constitute 65.5% of industrial establishments. Medium scale enterprises constitute 32% while large-scale enterprises make up only about 2.5% of the industrial establishments, UNIDO, (2001). In Asaba of Nigeria, both formal and informal economic activities are common. Large numbers of women work in the informal sector but their contribution to value added is not included in national accounts Soetan, (1995). There are a variety of constraints on women and the ability of women to upgrade their production continuously. These include poor access to market information, technology, finance; poor linkages with support services; and unfavorable policy and regulatory environment, De Groot, (2001). These constraints are aggravated by the need to compete in an aggressive business environment with rapid technological changes, globalization of production, trade and financial flows. Concerted efforts are needed to enable women to make better economic choices and to transform their businesses into competitive enterprises, generating income and employment through improved production. As women increasingly start their own businesses, it is important to develop an understanding of the women business founders and what motivates them to start their businesses. Political and economic opportunities for women still remain limited. A number of women in career planning are discouraged from following their dreams because their career choice does not fit in with traditional gender roles. Men are discouraged from careers in nursing, social work, and teaching while women are discouraged from careers in technology, science, and security. Men who are interested in "feminine" jobs are teased about their sexuality and women who are interested in "male" jobs are questioned as to whether they have the brains or stamina to perform (Hansen, 2001).
Informal economic activities in Nigeria encompass a wide range of small-scale, largely self-employment activities. Most of them are traditional occupations and methods of production. Of particular interest to this study is the informal productive sub-sector which encompasses all economic activities involving the production of tangible goods. They include agricultural production, small-scale manufacturing, building and construction, food production, woodwork, furniture making, garment making, welding and iron works, among others. Ekpo and Umoh, (2000). These categories are classed ‘technological entrepreneurs’. Non-Technological entrepreneurship has among its grouping, the informal retail and service sub-sector. Like other entrepreneurs these category of entrepreneurs appear to have an entrepreneurial social background; their parents more often are also entrepreneurs. But different from other entrepreneurs they start on their own and do not take over their parents companies, Engelbrecht et al., (1996). In Nigeria this sub-sector includes education services, health services, counseling services, retail trade, transport, restaurant, hospitality, financial outfits and household or other personal services (Soetan, 1995). Activities in this sub-sector in Nigeria contribute substantially to the general growth of the economy and personal or household income (Central Bank of Nigeria, 2004)
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM