Seminar: Entrepreneurs by the grace of God - Rethinking policies to promote entrepreneurship among the poor

Cover MA thesis Merel van 't Wout

In this Africa Today seminar, Merel van 't Wout, winner Africa Thesis Award 2015, will take a closer look at efforts to promote entrepreneurship as a development strategy. Based on the stories of seamstresses in Bolgatanga (Ghana) she argues that there is a huge discrepancy between the theoretical arguments underlying efforts to advance entrepreneurship among the poor, and the everyday realities that people portrayed as “entrepreneurs” are facing on a daily basis. There are four cross-cutting issues that will be discussed. These issues are not only relevant for the situation of seamstresses in Bolgatanga, but also apply to a wider field. These issues are: the weak conceptualization of entrepreneurship in development discourse, the neglect of the socio-economic context in which "entrepreneurial" activities take place, the importance of cultural and psychological factors, and the ongoing attractiveness that entrepreneurship carries for development policymakers.This seminar is an appeal to rethink policies designed to promote (female) entrepreneurship among the poor. It calls into question the portrayal of self-employment as "entrepreneurship" and the depiction of poverty as an individual problem.

With her MA thesis Entrepreneurs by the grace of God: Life and work of seamstresses in Bolgatanga, Ghana, Merel van 't Wout won the Africa Thesis Award 2015. In the seminar of today the chair of the jury will read the jury report.

Merel van 't Wout cMerel van 't Woutompleted her research master in Modern History and International Relations cum laude at the University of Groningen.
Merel’s multiple fieldwork visits to Northern Ghana  between 2011 and 2014 resulted in a master thesis in which she explored the interplay between the lifeworlds of young seamstresses, the NGOs that became involved in providing training to these girls and the discourse that celebrates female entrepreneurship as an empowering development strategy.

Date, time and location

14 January 2016
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 5A23 (5th floor)