Policies for supporting women entrepreneurs in developing countries: the case of Tanzania

Dina Modestus Nziku, Colette Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: While the topic of women’s entrepreneurship continues to grow in academic appeal, the policy aspect is one that has received limited scholarly attention, especially in the context of developing countries. To address this gap in scholarship, this paper aims to critically explore women’s entrepreneurship policy in Tanzania. Our research question asks: How are policies designed to encourage and support entrepreneurship in Tanzania gendered, and how might such policies be (re)designed so that they are more relevant to women entrepreneurs in the Tanzanian context? We contribute to extant scholarship by: drawing attention to the particular context for women’s entrepreneurship in Tanzania; identifying gender biases inherent in current entrepreneurship policies; offering some recommendations for policy makers, and identifying areas worthy of future research attention in this area.

Design/Methodology/Approach: The study builds on the Global Women’s Enterprise Policy (GWEP) project. The authors apply an adapted reading guide technique to analyse and critique relevant entrepreneurship policy documents in Tanzania. The reading guide examines the category and type of document being analysed, key themes, content, language and imagery, as well as the key policy recommendations being offered and their relevance to women’s entrepreneurship in Tanzania and the wider Sub-Saharan African region. Completed reading guide templates are then coded and collated into an excel spreadsheet. Findings are discussed and critiqued within a regulative, normative and cultural-cognitive framework.

Findings: The study provides rich and valuable insights into the unique context for women’s entrepreneurship in Tanzania, shedding new light on how women’s entrepreneurship is supported in a particular region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Findings reveal that while current policy acknowledges the important role women play in their communities, especially in terms of their contribution to labour, it is geared more toward SME development than entrepreneurship; this is despite that fact that entrepreneurship is identified as a means to address sustainable development challenges (notably unemployment and poverty) and expand opportunities for socially disadvantaged groups, especially women. Existing policy is essentially ‘context neutral’ and hence relatively ineffective; the gender focus is lacking and there is a failure to take account of the specific context in which Tanzanian women entrepreneurs have to operate. We argue for policies designed to support women’s entrepreneurship to be formalised and contextualised in their specific geographical and cultural setting. The ‘institutional pillars’ framework allows us to identify areas where contextualisation of women’s entrepreneurship policies could be enhanced.

Practical Implications: The study implies that, to be effective, policies designed to support women’s entrepreneurship need to be formalised and contextualised to their specific geographical and cultural setting. Some areas where this might be achieved are identified. Avenues for future research in this area are also suggested.

Originality/Value: The value of the paper lies in its focus on Tanzania, and its critique of existing policies from a gender and institutional perspective. It also enhances understanding of the unique context in Tanzania for entrepreneurship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-58
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Entrepreneurship and Public Policy
Issue number1
Early online date10 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2021


  • women's entrepreneurship
  • entrepreneurship policy
  • gender
  • institutional theory
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Tanzania


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