It is important to encourage and support enterprise development in South Africa and women entrepreneurs should be at the top of the list. Successful enterprise development aimed at women can help the country achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the objectives of the National Development Plan, explains Dr Lia Vangelatos, Acting Managing Director of Anglo Americans enterprise development arm, Zimele.
Although women constitute just more than half of the worlds population, their contribution to measured economic activity, growth and well-being is far below its potential, says the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Despite significant progress in recent decades, labour markets across the world are still divided according to gender with little progress towards gender equality. In addition, women make up the majority of the informal sector and the poor and female representation in entrepreneurship remains low.
Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, recently told the High-Level Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in New York that it is time to change and as a matter of urgency, push for greater gender equity in the classroom, workforce and board room. She said women are too often disadvantaged by outdated obstacles and attitudes which degrades the whole of society. If the contribution of women is rejected, income per capita decreases with as much as 27 percent in some regions leading to a decrease in quality of life.
While the role of women in the South African economy has been acknowledged and encouraged, efforts to support women in enterprise seems to have decreased. According to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), South Africa showed improvement in decreasing the gender gap in the past two years but in 2012 the gap widened again with only 39% of women with plans to venture into business.
Women often do not have the business experience and financial resources to successfully establish an enterprise and sustain its growth. As with their local male counterparts, female entrepreneurs also need assistance with issues such as corporate governance, management, legal, accounting, public relations, safety, health and the environment.
The most effective way to do this is to partner with rising entrepreneurs to create networks where they can be trained and guided in their business journey. Mentorship and support is crucial, as well as establishing appropriate networks and forums that will allow these women to have all relevant questions relating to small business development answered.
Women in rural areas must be encouraged to establish their own enterprises to increase income so that they can eliminate poverty in their families as well as create jobs that will enable other women to do the same. These women should be assisted to become smart and skilful business women with thriving and sustainable enterprises, which will offer them financial independence.
A steady income will provide stability in the family structure as well as opportunities for better education, which in turn will uplift whole communities. Recognising the importance of empowering women to establish enterprises Zimele, Anglo Americans dedicated empowerment arm, has had considerable success since 1989 in helping women and men obtain financing for small enterprises and develop crucial business skills.
As part of its commitment to the empowerment of women in the South African economy, Zimele allocated 49% of its funding to female entrepreneurs between 2008 and 2012.
Anglo American further demonstrated its commitment to female economic empowerment through its recent partnership with the South African Women Business Council of Co-Operatives (SAWBCC). This partnership will help the SAWBCC address the unequal patterns of production in the economy and ensure that women receive maximum economic benefits.
Encouraging entrepreneurship among women will serve as a positive force for social and economic development in the country as well as eradicate poverty, and most importantly, empower women. As the saying goes, you empower a Woman, you empower a nation. All this can only be done through a sincere commitment to encourage and assist women entrepreneurs and giving them consistent support to establish successful enterprises.
Anglo American is one of the worlds largest mining companies, is headquartered in the UK and listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges. Anglo Americans portfolio of mining businesses spans bulk commodities iron ore and manganese, metallurgical coal and thermal coal; base metals copper and nickel; and precious metals and minerals in which it is a global leader in both platinum and diamonds. Anglo American is committed to the highest standards of safety and responsibility across all its businesses and geographies and to making a sustainable difference in the development of the communities around its operations. The companys mining operations, extensive pipeline of growth projects and exploration activities span southern Africa, South America, Australia, North America, Asia and Europe. www.angloamerican.com
Since 1989, Zimele has successfully empowered numerous black Small and Medium
Enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs, and generated sustainable job creation and socio-economic development in predominantly peri-urban mining communities.