Women Entrepreneur Support in South Africa
South Africa has made significant strides when it women in entrepreneurship. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2020/2021 South Africa Report shows that women comprise 44.4% of the entrepreneurial activity in the country and the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) reporting that S.A. was one of only 12 economies where women’s entrepreneurial activity increased.
Despite this, women entrepreneurs remain grossly under-supported.
Women entrepreneur support needs to be on South Africa’s economic growth agenda. That is if we want to thrive as a nation.
What are some of the issues facing women entrepreneurs in South Africa?
1. Access to Finance
There’s no doubt that more effort needs to be made to help women entrepreneurs who face significant challenges in accessing finance. According to a report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), women-owned businesses in South Africa have a credit gap of $4.9 billion. This means that they lack access to the necessary financial resources to grow and expand their businesses. One of the main barriers to accessing finance for women entrepreneurs is a lack of collateral. Many women entrepreneurs do not own assets such as property or vehicles, which can be used as collateral for loans. Additionally, women entrepreneurs may face discrimination when applying for loans, as lenders may perceive them as higher-risk borrowers than their male counterparts. These biases need to be addressed in ongoing education efforts.
2. Networking and Mentorship
3. Development of Skills
Skills development is an important aspect of supporting women entrepreneurs in South Africa to succeed and grow their businesses. There are many organisations that help skill up women entrepreneurs. Many of these organisations are doing sterling work. Organisations like The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), and of course, our own Seed Academy has a women entrepreneurship development programme called Accelerate Her. It empowers women and shifts their mindsets. AccelerateHer takes a holistic approach to the development of women entrepreneurs – building business skills alongside technical and social skills, while addressing psycho-social issues and the challenges women in business face.
4. Legal and Regulatory Support
Legal and regulatory support is crucial for women entrepreneurs in South Africa to ensure they can operate their businesses effectively and comply with the necessary laws and regulations. Once again, there are many organisations that offer services such as business registration, legal compliance support, and access to funding. Women entrepreneurs need to be supported on how to navigate regulatory and legal issues.
Accessing a male-dominated market can be challenging for women entrepreneurs. South Africa is still a ‘good old boys’ club, and women find it difficult to break into this club, particularly in industries like mining and manufacturing. As Zandile Njamela Mampone, Supplier Inclusion and Diversity Lead at Accenture, a panelist at the 2022 Business Day Dialogue on Women Economic Empowerment highlighted – men are more proactive, they lobby and use their networks to access tenders. But building an effective network is often difficult for women with family responsibilities.
There are many benefits to women entrepreneur development:
- There’s no doubt that it boosts economic growth. A 175-billion contribution, and a million jobs, are not to be sniffed at. Can you imagine if we could really get behind women’s entrepreneur development and double that? What would that mean to South Africa?
- If we could do that, it would lead to the improvement of living standards for everyone.
- If we bring more women into the club, we have economic diversity. We can bring more skills and different revenue streams. This is good for the entire country.
- And, of course, women’s empowerment is a massive benefit. If our mothers, sisters and daughters can be uplifted so that they can meaningfully contribute to the economy, this has to be a good thing, don’t you think? Women have so much to offer, and if given the chance, they can propel South Africa into economic recovery.
There’s no doubt that efforts are being made from the government and industry to support women entrepreneurs. But with the numerous challenges facing South Africa, the pace will need to be picked up significantly. The quicker we can get women entrepreneurs empowered, the better off we’ll all be as a nation. To this end, we have to focus heavily on women entrepreneur development and women entrepreneur support.