While its no secret that women entrepreneurs tend to thrive and achieve better levels of entrepreneurial success in developed countries where they have adequate support and access to resources, what’s remarkable is how women on the continent are defying the odds.

According to the recently released MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, 46,4% of businesses operated in Ghana are owned by women, while Uganda boasts a women business ownership rate of 33,8%.

These two countries, as well as Vietnam, are just some of the emerging markets that are outperforming the likes of global powerhouses like the USA, where businesses owned by women make up only 25,5% of all enterprises.

“Women entrepreneurs have made remarkable strides as business owners around the world, even as they work to achieve their full potential,” says MasterCard CFO Martina Hund-Mejean.

READ MORE: SA takes 22nd spot in index of women entrepreneurs

“We believe that by drawing attention to their efforts, we can further  support and empower women in their drive to run successful businesses and lead richer, more fulfilling lives.”

The prevalence of women-owned businesses on the continent can largely be attributed to the fact that most entrepreneurial ventures started by African women are primarily driven by a need to survive, they tend to succeed despite their lack of financial capital and access to enabling services.

Interestingly, the index – which was conducted among female entrepreneurs and business owners in 57 countries around the world – reveals that women in developed countries like New Zealand, which has the strongest enabling conditions for entrepreneurs, face cultural biases from a  society that is less receptive to women in entrepreneurship.

Some of the common push down factors that drag aspiring female entrepreneurs down include a lack of self-belief, poor social and cultural acceptance, limited access to financial services and business training, as well as regulatory restrictions.

On the flip side, the conditions that lend themselves to women building a thriving enterprise include greater financial inclusion and access to services, access to training and education, ease of doing business, strong support for SMEs, the presence of quality governance and a strong drive for success.

READ MORE: Johannesburg among top cities for women entrepreneurs

South African women, in comparison, own just 18,8% of businesses in the country and the number of women engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activities decreased by 15,7% year-on-year, while for males, it declined by a significant 27,6%.

“This parallels a persistent trend of low entrepreneurial intention and activity in South Africa and is not surprising given that the country experienced several economic and political headwinds in 2016 and 2017,” says Mark Elliott, Division President of MasterCard Southern Africa.

“An accelerated and concerted focus on improving entrepreneurial skills, business opportunities, access to funding, as well as promoting entrepreneurship as a respectable career for women to dismantle negative social and cultural perceptions will foster a more enabling environment for women entrepreneurs.”

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