Botswana and Uganda have highest rates of female entrepreneurship

Mastercard has released the results of its inaugural Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), which indicates that South African women’s full potential as entrepreneurs is yet to be unleashed. Uganda (34.8%) and Botswana (34.6%) rank first and second in the world with the highest percentages of women entrepreneurs, driven mostly by necessity as opposed to being inspired by business opportunities. This news could not have come at a better time, considering this week the world celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8.

The index uses three components, made up of 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators, to look at how 54 economies, representing 78.6% of the world’s female labour force, differ in terms of the level of Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors. The survey was run across Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, North America, Latin America and Europe.

Other developing countries, such as Russia, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam are also in the top 10. New Zealand (third) and Australia (fifth) are the developed countries with highest rates of female business owners.

South Africa not high enough

South Africa ranks 21st (64.4) on the Index, which tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalise on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments. Despite a healthy MIWE score, women account for only 19.1% of business owners in South Africa (rank 44), indicating that women’s progress in entrepreneurship has been disappointingly low compared to its global counterparts.

Mark Elliott, division president, Mastercard South Africa said;

“While South Africa has made some solid progress in creating supportive conditions for women entrepreneurs, more must be done to ensure women fully harness these opportunities. It is vital that the public and private sector work together with development organisations to support South African women in fulfilling their potential as business owners and innovators. When that happens, the whole of society will benefit.”

World leaders

Overall, developed markets top the index, led by New Zealand (74.4, 1st), Canada (72.4, 2nd) and the United States (69.9, 3rd). These countries have the strongest conditions that support women business ownership, such as robust small- and mid-sized business communities, a high quality of governance and ease of doing business.


Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs – Top 10 markets with the strongest supporting conditions and opportunities for women to thrive as entrepreneurs:

  1. New Zealand – 74.4%
  2. Canada – 72.4%
  3. US – 69.9%
  4. Sweden – 69.6%
  5. Singapore – 69.5%
  6. Belgium – 69.0%
  7. Australia – 68.5%
  8. Philippines – 68.4%
  9. UK – 67.9%
  10. Thailand – 67.5%

Women business owners as a percentage of all business owners – Top 10 markets:

  1. Uganda – 34.8%
  2. Botswana – 34.6%
  3. New Zealand – 33.3%
  4. Russia – 32.6%
  5. Austria – 32.4%
  6. Bangladesh – 31.6%
  7. Vietnam – 31.4%
  8. China – 30.9%
  9. Spain – 30.8%
  10. US – 30.7%


The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalise on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments and is the weighted sum of three components:

  • Women’s Advancement Outcomes (degree of bias against women as workforce participants, political and business leaders, as well as the financial strength and entrepreneurial inclination of women)
  • Knowledge Assets and Financial Assets (degree of access women have to basic financial services, advanced knowledge assets and support for small and medium enterprises)
  • Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions (overall perceptions on the ease on conducting business locally, quality of local governance, women’s perception of safety levels and cultural perception of women’s household financial influence)

Image source: / Mastercard

1 Comment

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