Women’s entrepreneurship: an important driver of emancipation

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Mali faces great challenges: the rapid increase of the working-age population, the large gender disparities that place women at a disadvantage, and the effects of the political and security crisis, to name but a few. Through the FACEJ project, Swisscontact is helping young women and men to establish and/or expand their companies.

The primary objective of the FACEJ project is to close the gap between when an individual completes his or her education and their integration into the labour market, as well as to promote entrepreneurship. This involves supporting MSMEs owned by young people and facilitating their access to private financing. The selected businesswomen undergo training over a 12- to 18-month period and are counselled on, among other things, how to manage money responsibly and how to network with other companies. 

Pragmatic solutions for women entrepreneurs

The Support Fund for Youth Entrepreneurship (Fonds d'appui à la création d'entreprise par les jeunes – FACEJ) is financed by the Danish and Dutch embassies and is implemented by Swisscontact together with Plan-BØRNEFONDEN.

FACEJ has made a name for itself with pragmatic approaches and innovative methods, which women can use to deal with the various impediments they face:

  • A specific strategy has been developed to identify and help young women. Specialised structures provide assistance to female entrepreneurs.
  • Female-owned businesses in a traditionally male sector are awarded an "innovation bonus".
  • The age limit for women has been relaxed somewhat: now women aged 18-35 can start a company, whereas before it was limited to women aged 18-30.
  • In order to identify and assist young women entrepreneurs in regions outside of Bamako, a group of women ambassadors was established. The purpose of this platform is to strengthen young women's skills and development their resilience to better deal with the challenges inherent in entrepreneurship.
"We want to help young people to establish their businesses while ensuring their viability. Women’s entrepreneurship is particularly important to us because it is a key driver of emancipation."
Franck Merceron, FACEJ Project Manager

Strong women thanks to financial independence

Given that socio-cultural barriers in Mali prevent many women from starting their own businesses, it is even more noticeable that of 1,375 businesses that have received support from FACEJ, nearly 40% of them are owned by women. These young women work across all sectors: agriculture and animal husbandry, food processing, construction, services, fashion, environment, and environmental and communications technologies.

"I am proud of myself because I was able to create my own business. I had the idea, but not the funds or the capacity. I thank FACEJ because today I am what I really wanted to be: an entrepreneur!"
Ramata Ongoïba, entrepreneur in the agricultural sector

Video: Ramata Ongoïba farms fish fry (in French with English subtitles)

Through their activities and responsibilities as entrepreneurs, women create jobs and make valuable contributions to their country’s development. The financial independence that comes with this not only allows them to care for their families, but also strengthens their self-confidence and agency. These are important conditions for women in Malian society to play an active role.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems
Support for Business Creation by Young People
Mali faces several major challenges related to youth employment. These are: (i) the rapid increase in the working-age population and the difficulties of finding jobs to young people, (ii) the important place taken by informal jobs, (iii) the low proportion of formal jobs in the private and public sectors, (iv) the low human capital accumulation,...