Interrogating “entrepreneurship for development” : a counter-narrative based on local stories of women in rural Ethiopia

Cummings, Sarah J.R.; Lopez, Diana E.


Purpose: To interrogate the grand narrative of “entrepreneurship for development” that dominates international development circles, by applying a feminist critical discourse analysis that prioritizes women's situated experiences as local stories. Design/methodology/approach: Two existing frameworks for analysing women's entrepreneurship, namely the 5M (Brush et al., 2009) and the 8M (Abuhussein and Koburtay, 2021) frameworks, are used to examine the local stories of women in rural Ethiopia to provide a counter-narrative to the grand narrative of “entrepreneurship for development”. The local stories are derived from 16 focus group discussions and 32 interviews. Findings: The findings provide a counter-narrative to the grand narrative of “entrepreneurship for development”, evident in Ethiopia and in international development generally, while demonstrating larger structural issues at play. They challenge entrepreneurship's solely positive effects. While women recognize the benefits of having a business, particularly in terms of financial gains, empowerment and social recognition, they also highlight negative consequences, including uncertainty, concerns for their own personal safety, criticism, stress, limited social life and fear of indebtedness and poverty. Practical implications: Policymakers, scholars and development professionals are urged to reflect on the limitations of “entrepreneurship for development” and to consider the negative effects that promoting an acritical grand narrative of entrepreneurship could have on women's lives. Originality/value: The article advances an innovative partnership between feminist analysis and established women's entrepreneurship frameworks to contest dominant assumptions in the fields of entrepreneurship and international development studies. It adds to the limited empirical evidence on women's entrepreneurial activity in Ethiopia, tests the adequacy of the 5M and 8M frameworks in the rural low-income context of Ethiopia, and proposes a 7+M framework as an alternative to study rural women's entrepreneurship in low and middle income countries.