Tech ɔhemaas: the making of female technology entrepreneurs in Ghana

Delle, Sangu Julius (2022). Tech ɔhemaas: the making of female technology entrepreneurs in Ghana. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis is about the making of female technology entrepreneurs in Ghana. Ghana is a fascinating case study that reveals a paradox: the digital economy and digital entrepreneurship hold great potential for women, yet in unlocking this potential, they face severe inequalities. The acceleration of digital entrepreneurship in Ghana is driven by a convergence of factors including, inter alia, the government of Ghana’s push to promote and expand Ghana’s digital economy, increased focus on and funding of local start-ups by global Venture Capital (VC) firms, and entrepreneurs responding accordingly. This thesis explores the nature and characteristics of Ghana’s exponentially shifting but little-understood digital landscape in Ghana, with a special focus on the experiences and personal narratives of a cohort of successful women entrepreneurs. This thesis reveals how class and gender inequality intersect in Ghana, and how the impacts of government policies are socially embedded. The experiences of Ghanaian women tech entrepreneurs challenge and help us rethink dominant frameworks for understanding gender, finance, entrepreneurship, and technology.

This thesis focuses on the trajectories of 21 female digital entrepreneurs as they navigate challenges to achieve success. This opens three key themes for investigation. The first theme is the notion of success as a social fact. The second theme is inevitably the space of digital entrepreneurship. But what kind of space is it? And how is it situated within the wider field of entrepreneurship and business in Ghana? As compared to North America, Europe, and Asia, relatively little has been written about the digital economy across Africa, and in Ghana in particular, and so my research fills this empirical gap. In addition, I demonstrate, through my research, how the digital economy while often understood as a virtual space, is embedded in social relations, and how these social relations are in some ways distinctively Ghanaian but are also part of and are affected by global flows. The third theme is about women’s experiences and the importance of also situating and contextualising the lives and narratives of the women who are presented in this study. I look at how women tech entrepreneurs operate along the intersections of gender, class, race, and nationality in a digital economy which is simultaneously local and global. To analyse these themes, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork conducted over a four-and-a-half-year period between July 2016 and December 2020, examining female entrepreneurial experiences in Accra. My research situates these 21 entrepreneurs in the context of the economic, political, social, institutional, familial, and cultural factors that enable and sometimes hinder digital entrepreneurship. It also identifies the unique gendered challenges faced by these women.

Taken together, this thesis provides a grounded account, drawn from my ethnographic work, of the defining elements of digital entrepreneurship in Ghana and its intersection with gender. Each chapter challenges and nuanced themes in the public discourse on the digital economy. This thesis also contributes to the ethnography of women entrepreneurs in Ghana. This thesis also makes more general contributions to the debate on the digital economy in Africa. My examination of the digital imaginary and the state not only draws on the broader debate on digital discourses but is also an attempt to understand the wider social, economic, and political processes involved in the transformation of the digital economy in Ghana. The reconfiguration of the digital economy in Ghana has revealed that global financial flows are a fundamental aspect of the way the current development of the country is reconfiguring forms of social differentiation, the relations between the state and its citizens, and the way entrepreneurs are positioning themselves locally and globally. In this regard, my study of the digital economy and female technology entrepreneurs in Ghana can provide a point of comparison for future investigations of those other social and economic terrains that are contributing to the re-organisation of the economy of Ghana.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Funders: Other
Other Funders: College of Arts and Law Scholarship
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman


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