I’ve just submitted my first full postdoc proposal
Turku School of Economics, Department of Management and Entrepreneurship. I’m waiting to hear if they will support my application, and I feel like I’m really naked in the snow.
Integrating informal markets:
Challenging barriers to female agricultural entrepreneurs
Sustainable agriculture, gender equality, and global trade and investment are among the world’s ten most pressing challenges. There is an emerging consensus that not enough has been done to stimulate economic development with a clear focus on gender equality. Investing in developing nations’ agricultural markets has potential to transform millions of women’s lives; they comprise more than half of the world’s agricultural workers. However, policymakers and multilateral organizations have difficulty empowering female agricultural entrepreneurs because their businesses are primarily engaged in informal trade. Gender requirements, business registration fees, and corrupt state systems are examples of tariff and non-tariff barriers that women face in formalizing their businesses. These access barriers continually impair female agricultural entrepreneurs’ – up to 60 to 80 percent of one African nations’ workforce – ability to access foreign aid and technical assistance and investment programs. In the case of female agricultural entrepreneurship, development programs are adversely affecting gender equality, sustainable agriculture, and economic growth.
This research addresses the problem by developing mechanisms to integrate women agricultural entrepreneurs into the global trading system. Through a comparative case study of informal markets in Rwanda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe, the three-year research project uncovers if and how development programs can be changed to positively impact pressing global challenges. The three countries offer an innovative opportunity to study the future impact of lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to informal trade. Female agricultural entrepreneurs engaged in informal agriculture make up a majority share of these countries’ labor force, and East Africa’s exports and trade-related infrastructure expansion projects are rapidly growing. The impact of lowering access barriers, improving access to assistance and investment programs, and integrating informal agricultural trade is vast – akin to Muhammad Yunus’ effect on microfinance in Bangladesh.
Through a mixed methods approach, social constructivist framework, and field research in East Africa, the research uncovers significant tariff and non-tariff barriers that constrain gender equality, sustainable agriculture, and economic development. The research analyzes if and how barriers can be reduced, makes policy recommendations, and provides program advice to states and international organizations offering development assistance. Econometric forecasting and modeling are used to support the argument that integrating informal female-run agricultural enterprises has a transformative effect on millions of lives. Formalization of developing nations’ businesses remains a long-term goal. In the short to medium-term, policymakers and international organizations must understand how informal trade drives economic growth, agricultural development, and gender equality in the developing world and adjust accordingly. Excluding female agricultural entrepreneurs has little, if any, benefit; their integration is an essential priority in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges.