Female-owned business, informal trade, cooperative relationships, social capital, business sustainability


Even though the number of female-owned businesses is rising at a fast rate, in emerging and developing markets they tend to operate in the informal sector concentrated in less attractive survivalist businesses. This study investigates the use of cooperative relationships (CRs) to improve the sustainability of female-owned informal retail businesses. It is important because women account for about 70% of the world’s poor and yet are more likely to use a higher proportion of their income on the wellbeing of their families. To investigate the use of and the factors that influence CRs amongst female informal traders, a convenience sample of 173 informal female traders was surveyed. Data analysis was done using Pearson Product-moment correlation. The findings show that CRs of most female informal traders focused on financial security, social and spiritual wellbeing of the respondents and their families. CRs with family and other traders were common but the latter were more widespread and perceived to be more beneficial to the business than the former in facilitating access to diverse business resources. The study concluded that the implementation of formal support for traders’ CRs could contribute to business sustainability through improved access to resources.

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