Trade Associations, Customary Social Networks, and Female Microentrepreneurs 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? ​


Morgan Hardy

New York University, Abu Dhabi

Jamie McCasland

University of British Columbia