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Entrepreneurship activities in rural Tanzania: understanding women's micro businesses.

Ssendi, Lucy Boniface


Lucy Boniface Ssendi


Rebecca M.M. Wallace

Alistair R. Anderson


In rural Tanzania women play a crucially important role in social and economic production. However, the constraints of poverty, combined with poor infrastructure and minimal resources, limit entrepreneurial possibilities. Nonetheless, poor rural female entrepreneurs use enterprise to try to improve their lives. But this survivalist entrepreneurship appears radically different from western models of enterprise and we know very little about processes and practices. Literature suggests that there is a substantial gap of knowledge in terms of how much poor rural female entrepreneurs use entrepreneurship activities to cope in their livelihood, and this issue is the focus of this study. Like any other social and economic process, entrepreneurship is dependent on the social setting of an area, that is, the people and the environment in which they carry out their daily life activities. Thus, entrepreneurship development in Tanzania, like any developing country, reflects the social and cultural differences, hence the difference in entry, performance, and survival of enterprises. This study is also guided by the fact that significant differences exist in the general entrepreneurial behaviour and performance between men and women, as well as between women from the same region and from other localities. This study aims at increasing understanding on whether these differences are brought about by the cultural and social attributes, rather than physical and psychological differences. The purpose of this study is to explore on how socio cultural factors have impacted on the way poor rural female entrepreneurs undertake their entrepreneurial activities in rural village markets in Tanzania. The study was guided by the social constructionist theory. An ethnographic case study approach was used to collect data. Primary data were collected from thirty nine respondents from three village markets: Kongowe, Ruvu Darajani and Patandi. These markets portray the commercial side of social life and the social side of the commercial life. Observation, conversations, interviews and life stories were used to gather the required information. Secondary data were collected from various publications and reports from villages to central government level. For this study, the researcher looked into four assumptions, namely ontology, epistemology, assumptions on human nature and methodological implications. In undertaking this study, multiple approaches and data sources were used to triangulate the findings and deepen understanding of social and cultural parameters in three settings. The sustainable rural livelihood framework was used to analyse the impact of the entrepreneurial environment, availability and access to livelihood assets and the level of vulnerability on poor rural female entrepreneurs lives. It was revealed that poor rural female entrepreneurs undertake entrepreneurial activities in order to survive and not because they want to be entrepreneurs. Enabling environment dictates the type, amount and quality of assets possessed by the rural female entrepreneurs. It was also shown that poor women with few assets are more vulnerable to much of the social and economic harassments. It is within this vulnerability context where rural poor female entrepreneurs choose the strategies in order to achieve their livelihood outcomes. Findings from this study show that some cultural beliefs have negative impact on entrepreneurship and consequently economic development of the country. Beliefs in witchcraft and ignorance towards education influence the way rural women start and run their businesses. Religious and customary laws discriminate poor rural female entrepreneurs and hinder their efforts in undertaking entrepreneurial activities. Unfavourable credit repayment conditions and misuse of loans have negative impact on the growth of most enterprises. Moreover, business support from government and non governmental agencies is limited. The study shows how the phenomenon of entrepreneurship is context specific and how it differs across cultures. This research has made three contributions: firstly, by bringing new evidence to bear; secondly, using already known information with new interpretation; and thirdly, by tackling an existing problem using ethnographic approach.


SSENDI, L.B. 2013. Entrepreneurship activities in rural Tanzania: understanding women's micro businesses. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Apr 10, 2013
Publicly Available Date Apr 10, 2013
Public URL
Award Date Feb 28, 2013


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