Women's Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises

In 2011, the World Bank launched the Women's Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises (WLSME) program, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This initiative aims to promote a better understanding of the key determinants of successful women-led SMEs in developing countries—in terms of both entry and profitability. The trust fund co-finances rigorous evaluations of interventions in the following 12 pilot countries: Nigeria, Togo, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tunisia, Haiti, Mexico, Pakistan, and Kyrgyz Republic. WLSME activities have considerably advanced since its intiation: In FY16, five baseline surveys were completed, follow-up surveys took place in six countries and final reports and papers have been completed for two evaluations (Nigeria and Tunisia). Preliminary results from follow-up surveys have been produced for Togo and Sierra Leone and a further three will be completed for three other WLSME projects (Haiti, Mexico and Kyrgyz Republic) in early FY17.

WEST AFRICA (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo)

Nigeria: Selecting and Supporting High Growth Potential Entrepreneurs

The nationwide YouWiN! (Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria), a collaboration between the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry for Information and Communication Technology, and the Ministry of Youth Development, helps young men and women develop and execute their business ideas and overcome common challenges such as access to finance and skills to run a successful business. Program participants receive the following services:

  • Start-up grants received on registering the business and opening a bank account
  • Hands-on mentoring to enhance their chances of succeeding
  • Intensive business boot camp training on topics including management, marketing, finance, accounting, and public speaking

The YouWiN! program launched in 2011 with almost 24,000 applicants. After initial screenings, followed by a 4-day business plan training for the top 6,000 applicants, 1,200 youth were selected to receive a YouWIN! award—of which about 18 percent were women—and a little more than half had existing businesses. The awardees received grants ranging from 1 to 10 million Naira (approximately $32,000-$64,000) with an average grant amount of $50,000.

The baseline survey and baseline report were completed in FY12. Follow-up surveys were conducted at six months (FY13), one year (FY14) and three years (FY15) after treatment to measure outcomes such as business start-up and expansion rates, profits, and job creation. A randomized controlled trial examined outcomes such as business start-up and expansion rates, profits, and job creation. Results show that winning a business plan competition leads to greater firm entry, higher survival of existing businesses, higher profits and sales, and higher employment, including an increased likelihood of a firm having 10 or more workers. These results hold equally for both male and female-owned businesses with an average of four years of business experience. For those planning to start a new business, receiving a YouWIN! grant was especially beneficial to female entrepreneurs. It helped reduced gender gaps in the amount of time it took to start a firm and get it running. However, it had no impact on the gaps with regard to profits, sales, and the ability to expand the business’ workforce to more than 10 workers. Male-owned enterprises continued to perform better by all these metrics.

Read about the evaluation results.  


Identifying and Spurring High-Growth Entrepreneurship
David McKenzie, World Bank Group



Her Paint Business Was Failing: Would a $65K Gift Save the Day? (NPR)

Sierra Leone: Training and Facilitation of Access to Finance in the Creation and Expansion of Youth-Owned Enterprises

The World Bank Youth Employment Support Project (YESP) has recruited 2,314 young men and women (15-35 years) across five major urban centers—Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Kono, and Makeni—who have a business or are interested in starting one. With the help of a local NGO, Hands Empowering the Less Privileged-Sierra Leone (HELP-SL), these urban youth—half of whom are women—are helped with developing their skills and capacity to start or expand a business. 

The project investigated several hypotheses regarding constraints to youth-owned micro- and small enterprise (MSE) creation and expansion by providing one of the following types of support, or a combination of both: 1) Technical training, in a specific trade (e.g. welding or catering) through classroom teaching and apprenticeships, as well as basic financial literacy; 2) Microfinance facilitation, such as support for developing a business plan, setting up business clubs, accessing microfinance, and follow-up support to set up and maintain a business once a loan has been obtained.  2,314 young men and women (15-35 years old) across five major urban centers—Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Kono, and Makeni—who have a business or are interested in starting one are participating in the program. A randomized controlled trial examined the impact of the interventions on basic firm metrics (profits and outputs) and outcomes related to female agency.

The Ebola crisis disrupted the program that the impact evaluation seeks to evaluate. In particular, while technical training was completed, the on the job training and business plan elements of the training suffered delays and some reductions in duration. Because of the Ebola outbreak the microfinance component of the program was not delivered either. However, the grant is expected to meet its objectives. The baseline survey and baseline report were completed in FY15. The follow up survey and the field report were completed in June 2015. Results of the follow up survey were presented to the Government and other stakeholders in March 2016. The final report will be completed in early FY17.

The evaluation results show that overall levels of employment increased in all treatment groups, with results being mainly driven by men. Also, more young men and women became first time entrepreneurs. Young women derived higher, more stable incomes, especially those who attended the technical skills and on the jobs training,) and the young women who attended the non-cognitive skills training or a combination of both training were more likely to find wage work. The program also proved to have a protective effect during the Ebola crisis—compared with others not in the program, those participating in the intervention increased their consumption of goods and services and invested in more household assets, suggesting that skills and training interventions can help build household resilience against shocks. These findings also suggest that interventions that include non-cognitive skills training have the potential to create jobs for youth in fragile states and increase their employment prospects, particularly for women who are disadvantaged in the labor market. The findings are also aligned with prior evidence that the combination of capital and skills is effective in promoting micro and small enterprises.

Togo:  Hard Versus Soft Skills: Which is More Effective for Men and for Women?

The Togo Private Sector Development Support Project, a World Bank-funded project of approximately $13 million, includes training and mentoring of 1,000 micro and small scale informal entrepreneurs in Lomé, half of whom are women, to increase business success. Selected firms were in non-agricultural sectors, had less than 50 employees, had been in existence for at least one year, and were not registered with the Chamber of Commerce. The program successfully mobilized interest among entrepreneurs with the help of microfinance institutions, an association of women entrepreneurs, government agencies, an artisans’ association and the artisans’ chamber of commerce. Entrepreneurs are provided with one of the following trainings:

  • Managerial Business Edge training, developed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), on topics including marketing, customer service, financial management, accounting, negotiation skills, and human resource management
  • Personal Initiative training on how to set goals and make plans to work toward them, become proactive and future-oriented, and overcome obstacles

Women entrepreneurs were equally represented in both of these groups and each one had which had 500 trainees. The program participants had diverse literacy and language skills: 56% had only primary education or less, many did not speak French, and some were non-literate, so teaching methods and materials were designed to meet their needs. Participants in both training programs benefitted from individual monthly three-hour mentoring sessions at their place of work delivered by the trainers. The evaluation aims to determine the impact of both trainings on business outcomes and identify which of the two approaches is more effective and if effects differ between men and women entrepreneurs.

The baseline survey was completed by January 2014. First follow-up survey was conducted in September 2014 and the second follow-up survey was conducted in January 2015, one and five months after the end of the mentoring sessions, respectively. An additional follow-up survey was conducted in September 2015 and one is planned for September 2016. The results of the midline survey will be finalized in early FY17. Early results show that both training programs had positive impacts on businesses run by male and female entrepreneurs. After the training programs both male and female entrepreneurs invested more in their businesses, buying more assets like machinery and equipment, and their business practices and their marketing and customer services, record-keeping, human resource management information seeking practices improved. The team has raised additional funding (about US$850,000), and has received some funds (about US$60,000) from WBG Country Management Unit to complete endline survey and analysis. 

NORTH AFRICA (Egypt, Tunisia)

Egypt: Women's Leadership in Micro and Small Enterprises

The unemployment rate for women in Egypt is twice that of men. In light of the need to create sustainable private sector jobs, the World Bank works to increase access to finance for MSEs. Building upon the success of the Egypt Enhancing Access to Finance for Micro and Small Enterprise, in April 2014, the $300 million project Promoting Innovation for Inclusive Financial Access which focuses primarily on women and youth as well as underserved regions was launched. As a result of WLSME support, this project aims to increase the percentage of women-owned businesses served by a line of credit from 28 per cent when the project started to 37 percent by 2019 and to increase the number of women served by a line of credit from 779 when the project started to 38,500 by 2019.  Target female beneficiaries have been identified based on surveys, sectoral assessments, and other empirical evidence using results produced by survey instruments developed under the WLSME. The training programs piloted by WLSME continue to provide support for women entrepreneurs so that they are better able to access these funds.


Egypt: Women Business Boom

Tunisia: Providing Integrated Support and Incubation Services in Developing a Business Plan for Graduates of a University Entrepreneurship Track

A new entrepreneurship track in Tunisian universities allows students to graduate by submitting a business plan instead of a traditional thesis with the aim of fostering an entrepreneurship culture and improving participants’ employment outcomes. Two thirds of the participants in the entrepreneurship track who graduated in 2009-2010 are women. Project interventions include:

  • Business training
  • Personalized coaching for graduate students
  • Seed grants for winners of a business plan competition that students can apply for once all the complementary financing for the project is secured.

The WLSME is supporting a follow-up survey covering 1,700 students that has been expanded to include questions on topics specifically relevant to women, such as women’s agency.

The baseline survey and baseline report were completed in FY10. Two follow surveys were completed in FY11 and FY14. The endline survey was completed in FY15. The final report was completed in early 2016.  A policy note for policy makers and broader audience and a Working Paper were also completed. Results were shared at a seminar organized by the WLSME and other events. A dissemination workshop with Tunisian counterparts took place in August 2016. The evaluation results show that the entrepreneurship track’s main objective at inception—to stimulate graduates’ entrepreneurial spirit and skills to ease labor market entry—was partly achieved in the short term. A year after graduation, compared to the control group, students who were assigned to the entrepreneurship track had high aspirations for the future, were motivated and set out to create their own businesses. Nine to 12 months post-intervention a follow-up survey showed that male program participants were more likely to be self-employed than males in the control group. However, findings suggested most female participants had abandoned the projects they started after completing the program. This indicates that while women are willing to become entrepreneurs, they face more obstacles than men in the implementation of their projects and need more time to achieve their ambitions. A second follow-up survey assessed whether the program’s impacts were the same three years after graduation. Over the long-term the entrepreneurship track did not succeed, however. The long-term results show that there are no lasting impacts on an entrepreneurship culture nearly four years after graduation for either men or women. Most students who had business ideas have abandoned them, and participants in the entrepreneurship training did not have more new business ideas than the control group. Overall, the impacts of the entrepreneurship track were limited to short-term impacts of small magnitude, mostly for male graduates in the year after graduation.


Premand, Patrick; Koettl-Brodmann, Stefanie; Almeida, Rita; Kullberg; Grun, Rebekka E.; Barouni, Mahdi (2013). "From Evidence to Policy: Can Entrepreneurship Education Improve Work Opportunities for College Graduates?"

Premand, Patrick; Brodmann, Stefanie; Almeida, Rita; Grun, Rebekka; Barouni, Mahdi (2016). "Entrepreneurship Education and Entry into Self-Employment Among University Graduates." World Development Publication; Volume 77. Pages 311-327.

OTHER AFRICA (Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa)

Democratic Republic of Congo: Improving Market Access of Women-Led SMEs in Africa

The US$110 million World Bank Western Growth Poles project supports the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to develop and strengthen agricultural value chains in the Bas-Congo province, by rehabilitating roads and providing agricultural productivity, processing and marketing services to farmers in the area. Project interventions include:

  • Road rehabilitation to extend market access
  • Agricultural extension services
  • Childcare provision

The project targets female beneficiaries, as women’s land ownership rights are legally restricted in the DRC, making them less likely to invest in agricultural technology and to use extension services. This study evaluates the gender-differentiated impact of the overall package of activities provided by the Western Growth Poles project on agricultural outcomes such as productivity and access to markets. In addition, the study will use a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to evaluate the impact of Farmer Field Schools and of childcare services on agricultural outcomes, women’s time use and well-being.

Despite initial delays in the World Bank project implementation, commitment to conduct the evaluation has been strong. In FY16, substantial progress was made. Baseline survey was completed in FY16, when a sample of 3,000 households was surveyed. The research team is analyzing the data and a baseline report will be presented early in FY17.  Midline survey is forthcoming in FY17. Early findings suggest the importance of time use and land characteristics as factors in explaining gender gaps in productivity. The impact evaluation includes an initial evaluation design phase, data collection (baseline, midline, and endline), data analysis, and dissemination. The project has received additional trust fund support for the impact evaluation and the child care intervention. The team is working with partners to design and launch the childcare intervention. The additional funding was leveraged by the WLSME grant; US$250,000 will be used to meet project objectives and US$500,000 will be used to finalize the impact evaluation after the WLSME grant is closed.

Ethiopia: Tailoring Financial Products to Address Women’s Constraints to Finance

The WLSME has been piloting and testing several innovative products and services for women entrepreneurs under the Women Entrepreneurship Development Project (WEDP). WEDPaims to increase the earnings and employment of MSEs owned or partly owned by women. The project tailors financial instruments to the needs of participants and ensures availability of finance. It also develops their entrepreneurial and technical skills and supports cluster, technology and product development for their businesses. Targeted women are above 18 years and not full-time students. Participants are issued a WEDP membership card to track their WEDP related activities. There are currently over 10,000 women entrepreneurs registered for WEDP, and the project has disbursed 2,700 loans and provided entrepreneurship training to 4,000 women entrepreneurs. Project interventions include:

  • Business and technical training
  • Access to microfinance

New women borrowers are being reached—76% of WEDP clients have never taken a loan before. The average WEDP loan has resulted in an increase of 24% in annual profits and 17% in net employment for Ethiopian women entrepreneurs, one year after taking the loan. These female-owned businesses are continuing to grow, as the impacts of capital investments play out.

On the credit side, the project has partnered with Ethiopia’s largest micro-finance institution (MFI) to pilot a psychometric loan screening tool. Borrowers who do not possess adequate collateral take the psychometric test on a tablet computer, which predicts their likelihood of repaying a loan, and can receive access to a loan based on their test score. On the entrepreneurial skills side, the project is piloting several innovative approaches, including a technology-based entrepreneurship training program and a psychological and mindsets based entrepreneurship training program.

An impact evaluation is measuring the effect of loans on the business growth of borrowers who would otherwise have been credit-constrained, and also examining the feasibility and profitability of psychometric testing as a screening tool for the MFI as an alternative to traditional asset-collateralized lending. It is anticipated that the MFI will choose a cut-off score which will determine whether the relatively strict collateral requirements currently applied will be waived in the treatment group. The baseline showed that 79 % of WEDP clients had never taken a loan before, as most Ethiopian women-owned enterprises were stuck in a "missing middle" trap where loans offered by microfinance were too small to meet their needs. Therefore, one of WEDP’s objectives was to increase loan sizes. While average WEDP loan has resulted in an increase of 24% in annual profits and 17 % in net employment for Ethiopian women entrepreneurs, one year after taking the loan, for repeat borrowers, loans sizes increased on average by 870%. These female owned businesses continued to grow, as the impacts of capital investments played out. Repayment of loans stood at 99%. Through WEDP’s technical assistance, microfinance Institutions improved their ability to appraise, that resulted in a capacity to reduce collateral requirements from an average of 200% of the loan to 125%. The results also show that while in female entrepreneurs have low returns, the few women who cross over into traditionally male-dominated sectors double their profits.  Preliminary work also revealed that entrepreneurship training needs to be of high quality, in accessible locations, and at convenient hours, in order to attract busy women entrepreneurs. The team raised additional funding from external donors (over USD 1 million) for the evaluation.

The baseline survey, a project-wide baseline study of 2,400 respondents was completed in FY15 and the baseline report was completed in FY16. The midline survey was completed in FY16 and the report is forthcoming. The endline survey will start in October 2017.


Salman Alibhai, Niklas Buehren and Sreelakshmi Papineni (2015). "Female Entrepreneurs Who Succeed in Male-Dominated Sectors in Ethiopia." Policy Brief Issue 12. The World Bank: Washington DC.

Mozambique: Improving Market Access of Women-Led SMEs in Africa

The Integrated Growth Poles project is a $100 million investment to improve performance of enterprises and smallholders in the Zambezi Valley and Nacala Corridor. Growth Poles projects are complex with multiple interventions and thus an evaluation is particularly valuable as it can shed light on whether or not observed outcomes are due to project interventions, and the relative contribution of different interventions to growth outcomes. WLSME supports an evaluation of interventions that aim to improve the performance of enterprises and smallholder farms in Tete and Nampula provinces and establish a supply chain of goods and services from these to the international mining companies in those areas. Project interventions include:

  • Road rehabilitation to extend market access
  • Out-grower schemes
  • Skills and vocational training programs

The skills intervention aims to foster non-cognitive entrepreneurial abilities (such as perseverance, optimism, long-term orientation, and aspirations) through extension services aimed at expanding marketing practices to productively manage agribusiness. The cash grants were indicated to be invested in the production of cash crops and/or in the transportation of produce to agricultural markets.

This impact evaluation focuses on the impacts of a roads rehabilitation project on women farmers in the Zambezi Valley, as well as the complementary and individual effects of both skills and cash grants in the context of the program. It focuses on female smallholder farmers’ use of inputs, as well as their productivity, output, and profits. The baseline survey was completed in April 2016, and the baseline report will be completed in FY17. The sample comprised 3,000 households in 150 communities who live along four feeder roads in Tete Province, two of which will be rehabilitated under the WB project. The road works are expected to start in the second half of 2016. Midline survey will be completed in FY17. The design of the curriculum and mode of delivery of this intervention will be finalized by December 2016 and rolled out in 2017. The research team have raised additional funds from donors and WBG funds to implement the complementary intervention to provide women farmers with non-cognitive skills (US$400,000) and complete the impact evaluation after the grant is closed (US$500,000). This additional funding was leveraged by the WLSME grant and will be used to meet project objectives and finalize the impact evaluation after the grant closes.

South Africa: Improving Market Access of Women-Led SMEs in Africa Though Better Access to Information

In South Africa, female entrepreneurs, in particular, tend to have smaller networks compared to men, which ultimately leaves them on the sidelines. Supply Chain Network—a new online marketplace—was launched to facilitate business connections between medium to large companies and potential suppliers in a quick and easy way. It is intended to overcome barriers to entry arising from lack of credible information on quality. It also reduces the search cost by assisting buyers in the identification of potential suppliers, and offers ratings of suppliers. The WLSME is supporting an evaluation designed to understand whether this helps women overcome gender biases among buyers and expand their network. By rolling out the information about suppliers in different phases over time the evaluation can help understand how information shapes networking capital for female small suppliers and how this impacts performance of their firms. For instance, does the SCNet change who female entrepreneurs do business with and how much business they do? Does it change the nature and content of the contracts they enter into, and how do these contracts impact risk and business performance? The lessons from the pilot suggested the scale-up of the experiment should include a comparison between entrepreneurs using a basic search engine of suppliers and entrepreneurs using the premium version where participating firms have access to additional features including requests for quotes and feedback systems.

The impact evaluation aims to understand how information shapes networking capital for female small suppliers, how this impacts performance of their firms, and whether buyers select suppliers based on personal characteristics (e.g. gender). Results from a baseline analysis can be found here. Dialogue with the government and sponsoring banks, as well as other stakeholders, has been conducted as part of the impact evaluation process.

A baseline survey and baseline report were completed in FY13. A midline survey is forthcoming. The findings from the analysis of the baseline data indicated the following potential barriers to women entrepreneurs’ growth and access to foreign markets: Limited internal and external partnership opportunities, lack of basic skills, and risk aversion. To implement the intervention linking SMEs with larger firms, the team has partnered with SCNet and a major national bank. In FY16 the team conducted a pilot for randomizing access to the SCNet marketplace by female and male-owners of SMEs who are customers of the bank. The lessons from that pilot are now being used for setting an agreement with the networking marketplace service provider for implementing a larger scale experiment. The team has partnered with a new platform service provider that has attracted substantially more buyers and sellers and is better positioned to comprehensively answer the evaluation questions. The intervention will be implemented in 2017. The project has leveraged other internal WBG funds and received additional donor support from trust funds to cover future costs in the amount of US$250,000.


Women and Trade in Africa: Realizing the Potential
Edited by Paul Brenton, Elisa Gamberoni and Catherine Sear


Haiti: Fostering Women’s Involvement in Agro-Enterprise Through Supplemental Training for Improved Food Quality and Household Food Security

A grant scheme for Haitian producer organizations has been set up to support adoption of new technology, improved inputs, post-harvest investments and commercialization as part of a $40 million IDA project, Strengthening Agricultural Services II (RESEPAG II). The project’s main objectives are: (i) to strengthen/incentivize women to invest in their agro-enterprises to improve the nutritional content of their agricultural products; and (ii) to strengthen the gender focus of the Impact Evaluation for the post-harvest (agro-enterprise) investments under the RESEPAG II project. Female farmers tend to lack the financial literacy skills, technical knowledge, and market information needed to fully benefit from these investment opportunities. The WLSME is supporting supplemental training to address disadvantages faced by poor female farmers and bridge the productivity gap between male and female farmers. The training includes cognitive skills, such as business administration and financial literacy, with training on food practices, given the central role of women in food preparation. The training is participatory and incorporates interactive exercises.

The evaluation uses a randomized trial approach, sampling about 1,400 individuals, of which 1,000 will be women. The randomized trial approach will help understand how female beneficiaries of RESEPAG, who are given opportunities to invest and/or to raise their income, have improved social and economic outcomes such as: earned income and profits, women’s agency and food security.

The Government of Haiti launched the matching grant scheme in June 2014, inviting proposals from producer organizations and selected the beneficiaries in December 2014. The IDA Project itself has suffered considerable delays leading to a Level 1 Restructuring which was approved by the WBG Board in July 2015. The new project design, together with the reinforcement of the implementation team in the Ministry of Agriculture, led to a noticeable acceleration of implementation. Within the reporting period, the beneficiaries have been identified. The baseline survey was completed in FY16, and the disbursements of matching grants have started. Midline surveys will start in October 2016 for the first cohort of beneficiaries. The firm that will adapt and deliver the trainings has started testing the content and length of the different training modules. A pilot impact evaluation was tested on the ground and as a result the impact evaluation has been redesigned. A matching exercise was undertaken at the Rural Producers Organizations’ level in order to measure the impact of matching grant mechanism. A randomized trial sample was prepared for the individual women beneficiaries of RESEPAG who will receive the trainings. A gender-focused IE methodology, designed and agreed with the Ministry of Agriculture, has been completed. 

Mexico: Mujeres Moviendo México: An Innovative Pilot Training Program to Improve the Performance of Female Micro Entrepreneurs in Mexico

Intervention:  The purpose of this project is to: (1) evaluate the impact of a novel intervention which mixes "hard skills" (managerial skills) with "soft skills" (non-cognitive skills); (2) evaluate the impact on two different populations - one composed of "average" type of entrepreneurs (based on a census bloc enumeration) and the other composed of "self-selected" entrepreneurs who heard about the program and approached the entrepreneurship center; (3) evaluate impact across females with different skills, where skills are defined as an index composed of education level, education of parents and the results of tests designed to measure skills-- Digispan recall test and  Raven test--. The target population is female entrepreneurs in urban and semi-rural areas with small businesses with less than 5 employees and less than 4 million Mexican pesos income. The program is being piloted in five states (Distrito Federal, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Querétaro and Estado de México) prior to being rolled out nationwide. The program is funded by the Mexican National Institute of the Entrepreneur INADEM (Instituto Mexicano del Emprendedor) and the evaluation will inform the scaling up from the original 5 states to the entire country. The program is implemented by Crea Comunidades de Emprendedores Sociales A.C. (CREA), a Mexican not-for-profit organization focused on providing business training and specialized services to female entrepreneurs in marginalized communities.

Implementation Update: This project was added to the WLSME portfolio in 2016 as results from the intervention complemented and added depth to the WLSME Program. The baseline survey was completed in FY14 in eight urban areas which have a relatively high concentration of commercial activity. A midline survey was completed in FY15. A short-term impact evaluation based on the follow up surveys has also been completed. This evaluation will mainly focuses on "management performance outcomes" that are likely to be affected 6-9 months following the intervention, and will also include other outcomes (such as profits, sales, employees, etc.) The midline survey data will be fully analyzed and results will be reported by the end of 2016. 

CENTRAL & SOUTH ASIA (Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan)

Kyrgyz Republic:  Improving Business Outcomes Through Better Tax Practices

The Tax Reform and Gender technical assistance project aims to improve the regulatory transparency of tax collection in the Kyrgyz Republic through identifying the determinants of the gap between tax reforms and their implementation. Anecdotal evidence suggests the gaps between laws and regulations and their implementation can lead to different treatment of male and female entrepreneurs. 

The program goal is to design, implement, and evaluate the performance of incentive-based and institutional mechanisms that can increase the bargaining power of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in their relationships with tax officials, and/or change the sustainability of informal agreements between the two parties. Surveys of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) undertaken for this project will assess: (a) whether women have less access to information and knowledge about tax inspections; (b) whether this lack of access to information and knowledge affects female entrepreneurs more adversely than male entrepreneurs; (c) whether entrepreneurs’ lack of access to information and knowledge leads to higher rates of demands for bribes, harassment or discretionary behavior by tax inspectors; (d) whether governance-related issues and harassment affect the business decisions of women more strongly than those of men; and (e) whether a feedback-loop driven incentive mechanism piloted by the project will help reduce the tax compliance burden and improve the quality and transparency in tax inspection, and if such improvements in tax inspection have different impacts on the business outcomes of male entrepreneurs compared to female entrepreneurs.

A randomized controlled trial evaluates the impact of a feedback loop and incentives to tax inspectors to improve the quality of tax inspections, tax-payer satisfaction with inspections, and transparency of the tax system. It also measures the effect of an improved tax regime on business outcomes with a focus on female-owned MSEsA sample frame of approximately 10,000 MSMEs was developed in consultation with State Tax Services of Kyrgyz Republic using their business tax payers’ database. A sample of 2,500 businesses, 50 percent female owned MSMEs was drawn from the database. The baseline survey instrument was field-tested and the baseline survey was completed in March 2016. Each of the 50 regional tax offices has been randomly assigned to one of the four incentive schemes or to the control group.  By May 2016, all raid officials from concerned local tax offices were informed about the incentive scheme for their concerned tax offices. The performance of tax raid inspectors of these local tax offices during May and July 2016, were assessed by the World Bank through a survey of businesses during August 2016. A midline survey is planned to be completed early FY17 and a report on early results will be produced in FY17.

Pakistan: Providing Female Entrepreneurs With High Growth Potential With a Comprehensive Package of Services

The WLSME supported pilot offers a supportive ecosystem for female entrepreneurs. 400 female entrepreneurs in Karachi and Peshawar with existing micro and small firms and potential for growth are given a holistic package of services. The package includes: 1) Networking and access to markets designed to capitalize on partnerships in local business associations, chambers of commerce, and business networks; 2) Business education provided by a local business school; and 3) Mentoring given in group settings as well as one-on-one.  The aim of the pilot is to help these women grow their firms while measuring the impact of the various services to suggest ways to replicate and scale the approach. Special attention is paid to the quality of business education through customization, delivery, and relevance of the curriculum. A quasi-experimental (non-random) approach  tests the impact of business education, access to finance, and mentorship on program outcomes.

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