A Call for Inclusive Entrepreneurship in Somalia: Opportunities and Barriers for Female Entrepreneurs in Accessing Micro-Finance

Between 800 A.D. and 1,000 A.D., Somalis exported gums, precious gems, ghee and ostrich feathers particularly to Ethiopia and nearby Arabia (the Arabian Peninsula). They also traded slaves who were brought to the ports from further inland. The Muslim Arabs and Persians established a number of trading posts along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean coasts of Somalia. During this period, women traded food, fruits and other products, targeting traders who came to the coast from within and outside Somalia. Under colonial rule, at the end of the 19th Century, there was significant financial injection into the Somali economy from Italy. The economy of Somalia during the Italian era was limited to basic/traditional agriculture, fishing, commerce and pastoralism. The role of women in this economy was selling in market places; a position at the bottom of the value chain. The post -colonial era also improved the situation for women, as they were able to expand from the marketplace into the import and export industry. Currently, Somalia’s leading commodities for export are meat, hides, skins, dairy products, bananas, frankincense and myrrh. Women have been able to engage in the trade of these products alongside their male counterparts. It has been estimated that Somali women comprise over 60 percent of business owners. Their businesses include microenterprises as well as medium to large-scale operations and others connected to the diaspora. Women-owned medium to large-scale businesses are concentrated around the import of clothes, cosmetics, furniture and perfumes.