Women and trade networks in West Africa

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Women play a crucial role in the West African food economy. Yet, their trade networks remain often unknown. Our new study contributes to fill this gap by providing the first comprehensive analysis of the structure of West African social networks in which women play a particularly central role.

Our report published by the OECD last week identifies both the socio-economic barriers that restrict the opportunities of women in the rice supply chain, and the constraints that affect the governance networks aimed at promoting women’s entrepreneurship in the region.

The study shows that the general structure of business relations within the rice network imposes an unequal division of labor based on gender. The most prosperous actors in the rice network are those who have established numerous ties within and beyond their community. Women earn far less and are less central in the rice trade network than men.

Our work also shows that the governance network supporting women entrepreneurs in West Africa has a relatively dense center composed of international organisations, some West African countries and western partners that are at the heart of a wide range of initiatives. However, very few well-connected organisations can play an intermediary role at the regional level and the exchange of information between them is fragmented. We argue that the fragmentation of the governance network contributes to weak co-ordination of development policies designed to help women entrepreneurs in the region.

The study was part of the “Cities and Borders” project funded by the OECD from 2017-2018 which I coordinated with my colleague Leonardo A. Villalón at the University of Florida, Marie Trémolières at the OECD, Leena Hoffmann at Chatham House, and Lawali Dambo and Moustapha Koné at the University of Niamey, Niger.

 

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