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Young Women as Social Entrepreneurs in the Environmental Sector in Ghana: Development Hackers and the Re-imagining of Sustainable Development Models

Anastasia-Alithia Seferiadis 1,* , Sarah Cummings 2 and George Essegbey 3
Aix Marseille Univ, IRD, LPED, Marseille, France
Knowledge, Technology & Innovation Group (KTI), Wageningen University & Research, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
CSIR-Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI), Accra, Ghana
For correspondence.
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Highlights of Sustainability, 2023, 2(3), 157–170.
Received: 21 November 2022    Accepted: 17 July 2023    Published: 25 July 2023
The article considers the extent to which social entrepreneurship of young women is contributing to sustainable development in Ghana, based on field research conducted between October 2018 and April 2019. Data collection involved a review of the literature and a questionnaire survey of actors within the social entrepreneurship ecosystem in Ghana but is primarily based on the life histories of 13 women entrepreneurs collected using in-depth semi-structured interviews. Social entrepreneurship is undergoing a boom in Ghana which is characterized as having the most entrepreneurs as a proportion of the population globally and with women outnumbering men. Critical discourse analysis was employed to highlight the potential difference between grand narratives of entrepreneurship for development—how it is supposed to work, and how it is working in practice for young women social entrepreneurs in Ghana. The life histories demonstrate that the social entrepreneurship of young women in Ghana does not appear to be contributing to sustainable development because the enterprises yielded small or non-existent economic benefits for the entrepreneurs, demonstrating the limitations of this framework in the Ghanaian context. Indeed, most of the enterprises do not go beyond the ideation stage while the fame of winning social entrepreneurship competitions is used by individuals to build social and symbolic capital for employment by the public sector and the United Nations. In this way, young women are “hacking” social entrepreneurship for their own purposes as it is one of the opportunities open to them but it does not lead to sustainable enterprises. While the social entrepreneurship sector in Ghana is booming, it appears in reality to be a survival activity for women who are subject to gender inequalities and social-cultural harassment.
Copyright © 2023 Seferiadis et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use and distribution provided that the original work is properly cited.
Anastasia Seferiadis’ contribution to this research was funded by the Foundation Croix Rouge via the Fond de dotation de la Compagnie Fruitière. Sarah Cummings’ contribution was funded by the Netherlands Research Council (NWO) grant “From philosophy to action and back again: addressing epistemic justice in the real world of international development” (406.XS.01.054).
Cite this Article
Seferiadis, A.-A., Cummings, S., & Essegbey, G. (2023). Young Women as Social Entrepreneurs in the Environmental Sector in Ghana: Development Hackers and the Re-imagining of Sustainable Development Models. Highlights of Sustainability, 2(3), 157–170.
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