by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG – WOMEN are leading the charge behind the current e-commerce boom in South Africa but gender disparities remain a challenge.
This follows an impressive upsurge in women entrepreneurs in the country, despite varying challenges, during the COVID-19 pandemic years and in periods before.
A study by Heavy Chef revealed that 60 percent of the country’s e-commerce companies were founded and are headed up by women.
A panel of experts at the recent Global Startup Awards Africa concluded, “Women are #Winning.
“In a number of ways,” added Regan Adams, Chief Executive Officer of RCS.
It is the consumer finance arm of international banking group, BNP Paribas.
Adams said e-commerce has served to level the playing fields, allowing small retail players to take on larger and more established brands.
“Today, women can start a business with little more than a laptop,” the official said.
“This move towards the democratisiation of industry, driven by digital technology, is accelerating the opportunity for women innovators to take their place amongst the country’s leading entrepreneurs,” Adams said.
Nonetheless, many challenges women entrepreneurs face persist.
Gender inequalities relating to access of funding continue to present a significant hurdle.
This was one of the key topics the panel of experts discussed at the recent Global Startup Awards Africa.
More than 50 percent of businesses in Africa are built by women, yet across the continent, just 16 percent of funding goes to women-owned startups.
In South Africa, this percentage is marginally better, at 19 percent, but is still indicative of the gaping gender in investing.
Beverley Basson, lead designer of the LevelUp curriculum, acknowledges the need for women entrepreneurs to be upskilled and trained through mentorship and educational initiatives.
“What most women need is simply, someone who believes in them,” she said.
Basson referenced the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report, explains that gender parity among South African entrepreneurs will have far-reaching benefits for the local and global economy.
“Women entrepreneurs will play a key role in South Africa’s post-pandemic economic recovery and contribute to interconnected issues such as the urgent need for job creation,” Basson stated.
Faith Mokgalaka, founder of Puno Greenery, said emerging entrepreneurs, they pass the baton to the next generation of women who are looking to disrupt their industries.
“We have a responsibility to change the system from the inside through strategic and systematic action, so that we can pave the way for our sisters, friends and children,” Mokgalaka said.
Winnie McHenry, founder of Upcycle, struggled during her business’ formative years to convince suppliers and clients that waste could become a viable alternative to new materials in the mass production environment.
“When I spoke to men about handmade products from waste, they automatically pictured a woman behind a sewing machine, making a dress,” she said.
“It has taken years of hard work and persistence to unravel these stereotypical gender archetypes, but I am determined to do my part in driving change,” McHenry added.
Puseletso Moiomogale, founder of the Mind Retirement Institute, said women entrepreneurs need to own their power and understand their role in contributing to economic growth, innovation, creative and productivity.
“We need to inspire other women to become business owners and strive for financial independence. You empower a woman, you empower a nation,” Moiomogale said.
– CAJ News