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This article identifies some key factors shaping the micro-enterprise sector in urban French West Africa. Drawing on interviews with micro-entrepreneurs and micro-finance practitioners in Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo, the study explores the needs, characteristics, motivations, and success factors for micro-entrepreneurship in the region, together with some of the impediments to the growth and success of micro-enterprise ventures. It was found that those operating micro-enterprises in the informal economy are entrepreneurs principally by necessity, and that their most basic needs tend to drive their business activities and behaviours. It was also observed that their success was constrained by a number of barriers, including poor access to capital, poor training, and general aversion to risk. As a result, the development of the micro-enterprise sector in urban French West Africa has been sub-optimal, and the authors conclude that this situation may persist unless broader economic and social barriers are addressed.

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