Male entrepreneurs start businesses for any number of reasons while women often start informal businesses because they have no choice. It is survivalist trading in its truest sense. Traditionally cast in the role of mothers and wives, South African women display enormous resilience coupled with tenacious drive, particularly if they are single parents.
Even in two-parent homes, there is usually a subtle even subconscious belief that the women will look after the children. In many households, the oldest daughter often has the role of childminder and quasi-mother thrust upon her at a sometimes very young age, particularly in more remote regions.
Despite this potential, research shows that only 38% of South African entrepreneurs are female which is deeply concerning. According to the 2018 GEM report, our close neighbours Angola and Madagascar have a roughly equal entrepreneurship rate between men and women so we are really lagging behind.
Small businesses hold the key to turning around South Africa’s economy and unemployment. We need to encourage more women to take the leap and start their own businesses.
Equally important is the need to provide entrepreneurial education so that small business owners are equipped with the business knowledge needed to run and grow sustainable and profitable businesses which can also create employment. Even highly educated people with degrees and diplomas have never been exposed to business fundamentals and therefore lack the knowledge and skills needed to create a viable business.
These impressive women are making their mark in a challenging economic landscape, providing jobs, livelihoods to more and more people. I salute each and every one of them for their drive, determination and dedication.