According to Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) acting CEO, Ntokozo Majola, women who own small businesses face an overwhelming number of challenges, which can only be addressed by a concerted effort from government and the private sector.
Issues range from access to finance, an unfair playing field when it comes to tender bidding and skills training that is not sector specific.
“Each of us have a role to play in the small business and enterprise development space,” Majola said.
Speaking at the Gender Commission’s webinar on challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, she presented Seda’s report titled: “Women and Youth-Owned SMMEs: Findings, Opportunities and Recommendations”.
The focus of the study was on women and youth owned SMMEs, their status, needs, challenges and opportunities in South Africa.
The study was conducted across the nine provinces earlier this year.
“We commissioned the study together with the Department of Small Business Development because we just wanted some in-depth information on the unique challenges faced by women and youth especially understanding what the current status, trends and performance are, but also the opportunities they can be channeled into,” she said.
The report revealed some alarming trends.
Of the 556 respondents, 80% had a turnover below R200 000 -240 000 a year. The majority said access to finance was one of the major stumbling blocks.
They also have to deal with other social issues.
“About 73% of the respondents said that the most significant challenge is the type of marriage contract they enter into,” she said.
The report also revealed that internal and external social factors included negative social attitudes in the form of tradition and cultural norms, a lack of support from their husbands or family, “put-her-down” syndrome, and a lack of women role models.
“In one of the provinces, there was an old lady who was in agriculture and owned land, but she was experiencing challenges from the authorities in the area where she lives,” Majola said.
She said there were not enough skills opportunities for women in entrepreneurship, especially for those wanting to start a business.
“There is inadequate skills and training, a lack of awareness of training and support programmes, and limited training also in rural areas. There was a concern that some of the training which is available is too generic and is not industry- or sector-specific,” she said.
Stereotypes and discrimination were rife especially in male-dominated sectors, including being excluded from male networks.
Majola said that despite these difficulties, it was not all bad news.
“We as Seda have come up with our own model that is aligned to the district development model of being a facilitator and working through other agencies and business development providers especially in those areas where there is market failure, where there isn’t government services that are available,” she said.