A new report published by the Commission of Gender Equality (CGE) provides further evidence that the state is not doing enough to support women-owned businesses. The document titled: “A promise without commitment” was compiled following various commitments by President Cyril Ramaphosa that support for women-owned enterprises will be beefed up. However, it notes that there is no clear-cut legislature that mandates government departments to procure 40% of their spending from women-owned businesses, which Ramaphosa mentioned on National Women’s Day in 2020 and during his State of the Nation Address in 2021.
In 2020 the president said that the government would be setting aside 40% of its public procurement in support of women-owned businesses as they were one of the most disadvantaged groups in terms of business, alongside people living with disabilities. Last year he said a policy to support 40% of public procurement for women had been passed, and a few departments were implementing it.
However, the CGE report which was released on Monday, revealed that this was not exactly the case. The CGE further noted that public procurement spending on women-owned businesses has always been an issue. One example was the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries which spent just over R420 million on public procurement in the 2018/2019 financial year, and of that, only R5,594,533.48 was spent procuring from women-owned businesses.
The 2020/2021 financial period saw the department spending a little over R1 billion on public procurement, of which R64 million was spent on women-owned businesses. The Department of Science and Technology also performed poorly in the 2020/21 financial year. It spent R109 million on public procurement, and only R4.8-million was spent on women-owned enterprises.
Provincial governments have also not fared well. Gauteng was one of the poorest performers for the 2020/21 financial period. Of the R45 billion the provincial government spent, only R1.8 billion went to women-owned businesses. The CGE recommended that the government develop a clear-cut policy that firmly defined women’s empowerment.
“The CGE recommends that a clearer and more concise policy definition on women’s economic empowerment be developed as part of a draft policy document with clearly defined targets, timeframes and indicators,” the report states. “The CGE also recommends that current state procurement processes, including existing policies and legislation, be thoroughly reviewed.” Support for women-owned businesses by the state has been problematic for decades.
Just last week the Department of Small Business Development came under fire for not meeting its targets of supporting women-owned small businesses. Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development member Dumisani Mthenjane told the department to take its support for women entrepreneurs more seriously.
“The issue of underfunding and undersupporting women is a thorn in the flesh because they bear the brunt of unemployment and a lack of support,” he said during a committee meeting where the department and its agencies reported on their performance for the first quarter of the current financial year.