In light of International Women’s Day, celebrated today, Sunday 8 March, with the theme “Each for Equal”, it is important to encourage more women to go into business. When the disparity of too few female-owned businesses is addressed, it will help stimulate much-needed economic activity and have a hand in tackling local challenges like unemployment and poverty.
This is according to Gugu Mjadu, Executive General Manager for Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS) – one of Africa’s leading business loan and equity providers, and 2019 Gold winner: SME Bank of the Year (Africa)* – who says that there are simply not enough female-owned businesses in South Africa at present.
“There has been a marked decline of female ownership of micro-, small- and medium businesses (MSME) in South Africa, with female-owned businesses decreasing by 10% from 48% in 2008 to just 38% in 2017 according to a World Bank Report. Considering South Africa’s recently released GDP figures, which showed a drop of 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2019, we can’t afford to have over half of the country’s population not engaging in entrepreneurial activity,” she urges.
Mjadu says that once we start seeing more woman-owned businesses, it will help our society as a whole to become more accepting of women in leadership positions, alleviating restrictive expectations placed on them by cultural and societal norms.
“Women bring a particular set of unique skills to business which their male counterparts may not exhibit, adding a new perspective and approach to the business decision-making space. This can include a more nuanced view of risk, greater creativity, seeing different gaps in the market and prioritising collaboration, according to research.”
Growing the number of women-owned businesses would also help to alleviate poverty, according to Mjadu. “Poverty affects women more than men, due to factors like a disproportionate burden of unpaid work and childcare responsibilities. By creating wealth among women it will help to end the poverty cycle and create a more equal society.”
She adds that having more women in business can increase job opportunities to combat South Africa’s high unemployment rate, which stands at 29.1%. “This is shown through the employment power of the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, which accounts for 47% of the workforce in South Africa.”
A shining example of a female business owner, who overcame many adversities, is Business Partners Limited’s client, Abegail Nakedi, who faced late payments and early staff resignations when she quit her corporate job to take-over a preschool. Nakedi, who describes herself as a go-getter, says that while starting her own business turned out to be much harder than she thought, she still would not exchange it for anything.
“My advice for other women business owners is to believe in yourself and face your challenges head on – you’ll be much more resilient for it,” she says. “Never stop trying and keep educating yourself and learn from your mistakes to improve on who you are becoming in the journey,” Nakedi concludes.