This chapter argues that mainstream perspectives on innovation are not only gender-biased, in several dimensions, but also context-biased and ethnocentric. The chapter reports from qualitative studies on the innovations occurring in the mundane everyday life of urban female SME owners in the three large countries of the East African Community, that is, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The selected cases from these studies illustrate the innovativity that is exercised, even required, by these women simply to sustain the livelihood of themselves and their families. Although the phenomenon of frugal and reverse innovation is gaining more and more ground in the literature, this everyday innovativeness of women in emerging economies, for example the East African, has yet to receive adequate attention.
Africa currently has some of the fastest growing economies in the world. The development and growth of indigenous SMEs in these markets is vital in order for wealth to spread. Women entrepreneurs are crucial for achieving gender equality within this growth. Growth of SMEs requires organizing, which in turn requires cooperation between people. This chapter sets out to explore the contextualization of SME cooperation. Over 60 interviews have been conducted with an equal number of men and women entrepreneurs in the three large countries of the East African Community (EAC): Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. The gendered contextual preconditions for cooperation are striking. The chapter discusses enabling and constraining aspects of the context based on the contextual model developed by Welter (2011) and Brush et al. (2014). It also points to the agency which is exercised out of necessity by the women entrepreneurs, and the entrepreneurial strategies they use. Regional similarities are highlighted, as well as variations between the national contexts which appear in the interviews. In short, the enabling aspects of the studied context are some of the soft social aspects of the contexts, while the hard aspects, as well as the institutional and spatial dimensions, have constraining effects for both men and women. The soft context is more enabling for men than for women. The chapter supports the argument that changing the hard and institutional contextual dimensions via legislation and support mechanisms may not solve the real problems of gender inequalities.