Trade Associations, Customary Social Networks and Female Microenterpreneurs in Ghana



Jamie McCasland is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and has received graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Before Berkeley, Jamie worked in consulting, served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, and managed field projects for Innovations for Poverty Action. Her research interests focus on firms and labor markets in developing countries. 

Morgan Hardy is a PhD candidate in the Department of Economics at Brown University. She earned her B.A in mathematics and philosophy from Columbia University in 2008 and her M.A. in economics from Brown University in 2011. She has received an NSF/IGERT fellowship for interdisciplinary training and fieldwork as well as a Hewlett Foundation/IIE Dissertation Fellowship to study women's labor market participation in the developing world. She is currently interested in women’s economic empowerment, social/business networks, and informal economic activity in Africa.

Current Research Initiative as part of the PEDL project:

Trade Associations, Customary Social Networks and Female Micro-entrepreneurs in Ghana

Craft-specific trade associations are ubiquitous among informal small-scale enterprises in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. They offer, at the very least, a formalization of social networks linking entrepreneurs within a craft and market, and to some extent throughout the country. Like modern industry commerce associations in rich countries, these groups offer a public face to the craft, provide training and guidelines, and attempt to self-regulate members. Their scope and function, however, reflect the informal nature of the associated businesses and the information-poor environments in which they operate.

The proposed study seeks to experimentally estimate the private returns to trade association membership among women in the two most-common female-dominated trades in Ghana, tailoring/dressmaking and hairdressing/cosmetology. Further, the dataset will allow for non-experimental characterization of the benefits of trade associations, including information exchange, access to resources through government agencies and NGOs, customer referrals, and collaboration over supply chain relationships. A social learning and information dispersion intervention will overlay the broader trade association study and allow the researchers to answer the following questions:

  • To what extent does membership in a trade association benefit small-scale female businesses in Ghana, and through which channels?
  • How do these benefits differ for those who are well-connected outside the trade association?
  • How do non-rival business resources and information work their way through a social network?