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[ACCRA] Researchers in Africa are collaborating on a project that aims reveal the barriers affecting women who run micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).

The Gender and Enterprise Development in Africa (GENDA) project, set to take 18 months, will be carried out in Kenya, Mozambique, Uganda and Zambia. It will offer two competitive US$150,000 grants to research teams from those countries.

The project follows a rising evidence that gender inequalities disadvantage women — especially at the micro level — and harms Africa's potential growth.

Whereas women play an important role as workers and entrepreneurs to growth and the economic security of households, they remain confronted with various challenges such as lower pay than men for doing the same work.

"There is consistent partitioning of women into activities deemed to constitute 'women's work'. For example, many more women work in the services sector (mainly commerce, particularly informal trading) than men," says GENDA's call for research proposals.

Businesses found and run by women are on the increase in Africa but there is very little research on them.

Charles Ackah, project leader at the University of Ghana's Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, says the project "will examine the nature of MSMEs to help unleash Africa's productive potential and strengthen economic growth, with a kick-start in the four focus countries".

Its main objective, Ackah tells SciDev.Net, is to expand knowledge on enterprise development and entrepreneurship by examining the dynamics of businesses owned by women. In addition, it will provide perspectives on the institutional arrangements shaping innovation, technologies, productivity and market performance.

He says the research will generate new knowledge on the differences, constraints and performance gaps between MSMEs owned or run by men and women; the factors that contribute to these gaps; and measures that have the potential to reduce gender-based barriers — including the use of

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