This book is based on Merel van ‘t Wouts’ Master's thesis ‘Entrepreneurs by the Grace of God : Life and Work of Seamstresses in Bolgatanga, Ghanawinner of the African Studies Centre, Leiden's 2015 Africa Thesis Award. This annual award for Master's students encourages student research and writing on Africa and promotes the study of African cultures and societies.

This research project aims at understanding the expectations and motivations of young women in Ghana's Upper East region with regard to starting their own business. Supporting the owners of small-scale businesses in the informal economy has become a central objective of the global development agenda. Using an anthropological approach, this research contributes to and criticizes the dominant discourse on the need to advance entrepreneurship. It argues that the theoretical discourse underlying efforts to advance entrepreneurship among the poor are fundamentally flawed. Four cross-cutting issues should be taken into account: the weak conceptualization of entrepreneurship in development discourse; the neglect of the socio-economic context in which "entrepreneurial" activities take place; the importance of cultural and psychological factors; and the ongoing attractiveness that entrepreneurship carries for development policymakers. These issues are relevant to the situation of seamstresses in Bolgatanga, but also apply to a wider field. Based on the stories of seamstresses in Bolgatanga, this thesis is an appeal to rethink policies designed to promote (female) entrepreneurship among the poor. It calls into question the portrayal of self-employment as "entrepreneurship" and the depiction of poverty as an individual problem.

Year of publication: 2018
Series: African Studies Collection
Volume: 68



€ 15,00
Price per unit
Quantity: Order


Merel van 't Wout
African Studies Centre