Enhancing the performance of women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries - A study of Zambia

  • Bernadette Mandawa-Bray

Student thesis: Phd


The University of ManchesterBernadette MandawaDoctor of PhilosophyEnhancing the performance of women-owned small and medium sized enterprises in developing countries: A study of Zambia.Female entrepreneurs contribute significantly to the global economy especially through employment creation, contributing to diversity in entrepreneurship and economic growth. Notwithstanding this contribution, their potential remains considerably unexploited in many countries, evidenced by businesses that underperform those owned by men. Significant research gaps on the subject of female entrepreneurship exist in the literature. To illustrate, the number of studies focusing on women-owned businesses remains significantly fewer than that of studies focusing on businesses owned by men, resulting in little being known about the subject. Another important research gap is the absence of a conceptual model of factors affecting performance of women-owned SMEs in the context of Sub-Saharan African countries. Furthermore, the majority of studies on female entrepreneurship have been done in developed countries, giving rise to theories originating from those contexts and relative lack of knowledge and empirical results in the context of developing countries. Zambia represents a specific case of a developing context where little is known about female entrepreneurs. This research develops and tests a conceptual model of individual level and firm level factors affecting performance in women-owned SMEs in Zambia, drawing on the Competency Approach, Entrepreneurial Orientation (EO), and Resource Based View of the firm as the main theoretical foundations. It adopts a mixed method approach implemented in two stages: an exploratory qualitative study (carried out as the initial stage of this research) and a main quantitative study. The study uses the findings of the exploratory qualitative study to refine the conceptual model developed and to provide insights into the quantitative findings. The conceptual model is tested empirically using structural equation modelling with SPSS Amos software. The research makes a new contribution by identifying a new set of entrepreneurial competencies relevant to the Zambian context. It also attempts to integrate two literature streams (i.e. competency approach and entrepreneurial orientation) by providing empirical evidence that the relationship between entrepreneurial competencies and firm performance is partially mediated by entrepreneurial orientation. The study also extends the boundaries of knowledge by challenging the applicability of established measures and research approaches originating from developed contexts to non-industrially developed contexts. For example, it provides empirical evidence that the relevance of entrepreneurial competencies in a particular context is contingent on the unique aspects of its business environment. The study also challenges widely accepted knowledge that EO enhances firm performance, and provides empirical evidence for the argument that this relationship is context-specific. It further demonstrates that the individual dimensions of EO may have varying effects on firm performance, suggesting that it is better to view the EO construct as a multidimensional rather than unidimensional construct. This research also extends literature on entrepreneurial competencies by showing that they are strong predictors of firm performance in the current research context, and that formal education and previous entrepreneurship experience contribute to their development.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorNitin Sanghavi (Supervisor) & Claudio De Mattos (Supervisor)


  • Women entrepreneurs, SMEs, developing countries, performance

Cite this