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White paper: Analysis into the challenges of women entrepreneurs in the Global South

Our team has unveiled a compelling white paper that delves deep into the landscape of entrepreneurship in the Global South, with a specific focus on the challenges encountered by female business owners. Drawing insights from an extensive analysis of nearly a thousand applicants for the Bayer Foundation Women Empowerment Award, the white paper adopts a unique approach by incorporating both structured and narrative-based questions. This therefore facilitates an exploration of the profiles, obstacles, motivations and support needs of these female entrepreneurs. The findings not only shed light on the hurdles they encounter but also pave the way for targeted solutions and desired support. 




“We extend our heartfelt appreciation to all applicants who participated in the Women Empowerment Award 2023. Your dedication to your respective cause, valuable insights and willingness to openly share your experiences played a pivotal role in the study’s success. We wish all the entrepreneurs all the best for your journey ahead!”

Dr. Monika Lessl, Executive Director of Bayer Foundation




The annual Women Empowerment Award is one of the support mechanisms Bayer Foundation has developed to empower women. Through this Award, Bayer Foundation recognizes that many of the latest innovations in health and nutrition, contributing to better food production and quality of life in the Global South, are driven by female entrepreneurs.


 “The Award is designed to reward female entrepreneurs as role models and help them to scale their businesses. Previously the geographic scope was only in sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s award scope was extended to the entire Global South, enabling us to support five award recipients per region. In total, it provided 15 outstanding female entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to amplify their innovations and drive social change,” Dr. Monika Lessl states.

While the funding gap for female entrepreneurs remains extremely high, the study found that the funding gap gets exacerbated when combined with other issues that affect female entrepreneurs more than male entrepreneurs, such as challenges in building networks, finding mentors, and difficulties with being taken seriously.


 The relationship between the applicants’ challenges are displayed using multidimensional scaling in the image below.


Research Highlights



Key Messages

1. Shift in challenges: Gender-based discrimination emerged as the primary obstacle faced by female entrepreneurs across the Global South, surpassing financial constraints. This shift, observed due to the award's widened scope, signifies the prevalence of this issue, particularly in Asia and Latin America.

2. Support for business development: The research revealed that business development support was pivotal for female entrepreneurs, worsening the difficulties they face as entrepreneurs. Networking, mentorship, and collaboration opportunities were sought after, reflecting the motivation behind applying for the award.

3. Regional Dynamics: Regional disparities surfaced, emphasizing the significance of considering cultural contexts. While financial constraints were more pronounced in Africa, Latin American entrepreneurs emphasized the need for visibility and recognition, signaling differing support requirements across regions.


The research highlights the importance of tailored support systems for female entrepreneurs, emphasizing the necessity of refining business development curriculums, fostering community programs, and creating networking avenues. By acknowledging and addressing these challenges, supporting organizations can design effective programs, nurturing female leadership and innovation in the business landscape.


We remain committed to empowering female entrepreneurs by leveraging these insights to create impactful support systems, enabling women to thrive as leaders and change-makers within their communities and beyond.



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