Category Archives: Latin America and the Caribbean

Building a Network of EntrepreneuHERS

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Forbes estimates that 90 percent of startup businesses will fail. However, the entrepreneurship ecosystem – that is the enabling environment that is more or less conducive for startups – varies drastically throughout the world.

This year the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business report rated Serbia and Nicaragua as the 91st and 119th easiest countries for doing business out of 189 countries, respectively. The Global Entrepreneurship Index ranked Serbia as the 78th and Nicaragua as the 87th most entrepreneurial countries out of 130 according to their index. These rankings highlight the progress albeit continued uphill battle entrepreneurs face in operating a business in these countries.

More accurately, the 2015 Female Entrepreneurship Index (FEI) elucidates the unique institutions impacting women in starting and operating a business: a provision for childcare services, work-family conflicts, limitations to freedom to work and travel due to traditional family and religious norms, and equal legal rights, in addition to meeting expectations and gaining access to education, capital, and networks.

In a unique mentorship structure aimed at maximizing the number of beneficiaries of the project, CIPE partners the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) and Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) linked successful women entrepreneurs with emerging micro-entrepreneurs for one-year mentorship programs. Though FEI reports a nine percent increase in the number of female entrepreneurs who have participated in some form of post-secondary education, factors such as lack of confidence or practical know-how still prevent young women from actually acting on their business ideas and subsequently making it through the first few years of operation. To account for this in Nicaragua, REN linked each mentor-mentee pair with a female university student studying business at the top universities in Managua. Seeing first-hand how a real business operates and a microenterprise can scale allowed interns to apply the skills learned in their coursework.

This month’s Economic Reform Feature Service articles on the case studies of Serbia and Nicaragua outline the mentorship structure of each respective program and bring to light the power of women-to-women mentorship in building leadership and confidence, considering long term career goals, and creating a nurturing and supportive network to rely on when navigating difficult professional and even personal decisions. Women’s business associations like ABW and REN aren’t waiting for an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs but rather are creating their own.

Stephanie Bandyk is the Program Assistant for Global Programs at CIPE. 

Mentorship Helps Women Entrepreneurs in Nicaragua Grow their Businesses

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“When women come together in Nicaragua, we usually talk about families and communities. We never discuss about our businesses. That’s why a community like Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) is important, where women are encouraged to talk about their businesses without offending someone or thinking it’s a taboo.”

Marla Reyes Rojas, the owner of Techno Commerce Group, told me this over a cup of coffee during my recent trip to Managua. I was glad to hear first-hand how a CIPE partner is fostering a community where businesswomen, like Marla, can openly talk and build networks with other women in business.

Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) growth has been touted as a key for Nicaragua’s economic growth, but the country remains one of the most difficult places to start a business in Central America (for example, the licensing process takes more than 200 days to complete).  This is even more pronounced for women entrepreneurs who confront myriad of challenges, and as a result only represent around 25 percent of the MSME sector in the country. Additionally, women face the rooted machismo culture that prevents them from achieving gender equality in the economy.

In such an environment, it’s crucial for women in business to come together and motivate one another. That’s why for the past year, REN led a mentorship program to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills among women in Nicaragua. The program linked successful women entrepreneurs to female university students with business degrees (who served as interns) and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs (who were the mentees). REN matched ten teams — a team consisted of a mentee, mentor, and an intern — and each group worked to improve the mentee’s business.

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CIPE Launches First Annual Photo Competition

Photo: © 2011 Swapping aid for trade in northern Uganda, Pete Lewis/UK Department for International Development

Photo: © 2011 Swapping aid for trade in northern Uganda, Pete Lewis/UK Department for International Development

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank

Show us your best story-telling photo

Do you like to tell stories through photography? Then show us your best work! The first annual Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) Photo Competition is now open for submissions.

Open to participants of all ages, including student, amateur, and professional photographers, the inaugural photo competition will focus on the theme of Entrepreneurship.

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Newsflash: Businesswomen Lead in Nicaragua

Mesa presidium

The draft Nicaraguan Businesswomen Agenda was presented during REN’s International Women’s Day forum on March 6, 2015. Speakers included Nicaraguan Minister of Industry and Commerce Orlando Solórzano and U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Phyllis Powers.

Empowered Businesswomen.” “Businesswomen Influence the Destinies of Other Women.” These two headlines ran in the March 7, 2015 editions of Nicaragua’s two leading newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.

It is not unusual for Nicaraguan media to publish articles related to women’s empowerment on International Women’s Day. Women are prominent in the Nicaraguan political sphere, thanks in part to gender quotas encompassed in the Gender Equality Law and the revised Electoral Law. Nicaragua now ranks 11th in the world in the proportion of women in parliament, 40 percent – far above most other Latin American countries (and the United States, with 18 percent). International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight these advances.

What’s unusual in the case of the two articles linked above is the inclusion of one word: “Businesswomen.” Here is why.

Unfortunately the trend towards greater participation of women in the political sphere has been slow to spread to private sector organizations, which are key actors in advocating for policies that improve the business climate. A 2014 review conducted by the Network of Nicaraguan Businesswomen (REN) of the 19 business organizations that form the umbrella private sector association the Superior Council for Private Enterprise (COSEP) found that an average of 16 percent of board members are women. This is the same figure found by a similar study by the International Labor Organization in 2009.

Private sector organizations rarely incentivize women’s participation or provide equal access to information that can lead them to access leadership positions. As a result, there are very few private sector leaders promoting the specific interests and needs of women entrepreneurs in a substantial way.

On top of that, organizations of women entrepreneurs have historically operated based on incipient alliances and limited coordination with one another, resulting in disperse efforts to advocate for public policies that can improve the business environment for women entrepreneurs.

If this is the reality, are La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario’s articles simply fluff pieces scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day?

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How Mentorships Support Women Entrepreneurs

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Children’s book and toys that were developed as a result of Association of Business Women in Serbia’s mentorship program.

 

Fear of failure. Lack of confidence. Aversion to risk. These are some of the biggest hurdles that one faces when starting a business. Around the world, these challenges are often far more pronounced for women entrepreneurs. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report noted that one of the top reasons why there are significantly fewer female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs is because women simply believe they are incapable of launching their own businesses.

What can be done to reverse such beliefs?

One answer is fostering a network among women in business through mentorships.

The Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) and Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) both saw a pattern in their countries: women are reluctant to start businesses because they lack role models and the right skillsets to pursue entrepreneurship. To fill this gap, CIPE is supporting both organizations to empower and support aspiring or new women entrepreneurs in Serbia and Nicaragua.

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Entrepreneurship and Women’s Economic Empowerment in Ecuador

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Fellows participating in the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos (Ecuadorian Entrepreneurs) program work on the details of their business plans at session in November 2014.

Ecuador, the land of the eternal spring, the Middle of the World, and the Galapagos Islands, is also a land where nearly 26 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Seven of every ten people are employed informally — meaning they lack official contracts and may not be subject to worker protections — and over half are employed by businesses that are not legally registered. The entrepreneurial context in Ecuador is characterized by young entrepreneurs (73 percent are younger than 44 years old) with a variety of motivations: increasing their income, seeking independence, necessity, among others.

As of 2010, Ecuadorian women surpassed men in number of entrepreneurs (54 versus 46 percent). Entrepreneurship has long been recognized as a key source of empowerment and economic independence for women around the world, and particularly in Latin America.

The Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program, organized by CIPE partner the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy (IEEP), works to foster democratically and free-market minded entrepreneurs from the rural areas of Ecuador. To date, 45 women have completed the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program. One of the 2013 graduates, Brenda Sumba, shared some of her thoughts on women as entrepreneurs.

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Populism and the Internet in Latin America

The rapid growth of the Internet in Latin America between 2001 and 2008. Today 57% of South Americans use the Internet. (Charts: ZookNIC)

The rapid growth of the Internet in Latin America between 2001 and 2008. As of 2014 57% of South Americans are online. (Charts: ZookNIC)

By William Vogt

Since the rise and fall of the Arab Spring, debate has raged in the fields intersecting communications, technology, and international affairs: will Internet growth be a liberalizing influence that will create stable, prosperous democracies?

So far, this answer appears to be a qualified “no.” Connected and educated youths have not created the groundswell necessary for reform in many politically unstable countries. On the other hand, investments in information communications technologies (ICTs) have greatly improved local economies in many developing countries and hold promise in exposing and rooting out corruption.

In this last point, fighting corruption, the rise of the Internet as a social and economic force has created perplexing political trends. Increased Internet penetration does reduce at least one key aspect of corruption affecting free market interactions: barriers to market entry (for producers and consumers) due to opaque regulations and powerful oligarchies. In fact, studies have shown that merely the act of searching broad terms like “corruption” on an online search engine has significant impacts on the ability of the state to engage in corrupt, anti-competitive practices like demanding bribes from businesses.

This trend, however, does not hold globally and there is one part of the world that has created a particularly worrying balance between the forms of democracy and what is functionally a system of corruption: Latin America. Over its long history this region has developed a unique political culture with a prominent role for the ideology frequently described today as “populism.”

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