Although August is meant to celebrate women and their contribution to society, women entrepreneurs feel that after all these years, they still take a backseat to men. Vutivi News spoke to a number of businesswomen, who said that the public and private sectors often did very little to support them. They also believe that some of the statistics presented on women-owned businesses are interpreted in a glossy manner, and do not reveal the harsh reality on the ground.
Tondani Makhuvha, who owns and runs African Pride Collection which designs clothing and accessories under the Little Cuteez brand, is one such entrepreneur. Makhuvha believes that a reason why there was a 2.17% decrease in female business ownership as recently reported by the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Commission, has a lot to do with the crime.
“Covid has brought a lot of challenges to SMEs in general, and one of the challenges was the reduction of demand for services which resulted in the reduction of income,” she said. “In the construction and agricultural industries, women fear taking the risk of hiring ad hoc workers on a regular basis. This is due to the high criminal activities that South Africa is currently experiencing, and this makes women more vulnerable.”
Makhuvha said that although there were enough resources to help women entrepreneurs develop their businesses, the problem was access to these resources, especially in the absence of the right connections. “Support networks are almost non-existent especially if you don’t have the right connections,” she said. “The lack of knowledge and ability for women to get the type of documentation required to get their hands on these resources is a challenge.
“I believe that organisations like the Small Enterprise Development Agency (don’t) show empathy to those women who do not have the skills in compiling business profiles, financial statements, business cases and/or business plans.” Makhuvha also called on women to collaborate and help each other, instead of behaving like competitors. Happy Mohlala-Boshomane of financial services firm Sadi Holdings warned that women were still being used to front businesses.
“Coming from a forensic audit background, I’ve seen that a lot of women who own companies are not really involved in the businesses, but are just fronting,” she said. “The men (both white and black) and foreign nationals are using us women to get tenders, and it is unfortunate that we do not have a monitoring system to check the validity and authenticity of what the CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) documents present.”
Mohlala-Boshomane also noted that women found it difficult to run businesses without any support. “It’s challenging to be in business for single mothers as money flows in slowly at times, and in sectors like agriculture, construction and finance the government takes time to pay SMMEs their invoices,” she said. “This results in women shutting down their businesses and going back to the workplace so that there can be an income that enables them to support their families.”