Mastercard and JA SA partnership empowers women entrepreneurs

This long-term collaboration gave more than 180 women free skills training, mentorship and access to micro finance in 2021

Mastercard has made a global commitment to connect 25-million women-owned small businesses to the digital economy by 2025.
Mastercard has made a global commitment to connect 25-million women-owned small businesses to the digital economy by 2025.
Image: Supplied/Mastercard

More than 180 young women gained the entrepreneurial skills they needed to start or grow their own businesses in 2021, courtesy of two development programmes funded by Mastercard.

Part of a long-term partnership with non-profit organisation Junior Achievement (JA) SA, these programmes provided women with free skills training, mentorship and access to micro finance, empowering them to better their lives by creating sustainable livelihoods.

In doing so, it also enabled them to play a larger role in SA’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

While SA’s unemployment rate increased to 34.9% in the third quarter of 2021, research shows that unemployment among women — and particularly black women — remains higher than men. More than 96% of the women in this year’s programmes were young black females between the ages of 18 and 35. 

“Entrepreneurs characteristically have ambition, determination and a flair for original ideas. However, many lack the business expertise required to develop these into commercially viable ventures,” says Nelly Mofokeng, MD at JA SA.

“Providing support to women entrepreneurs through programmes such as those funded by Mastercard is vital for the sustained growth of their businesses, which allows them to become self sufficient and better able to provide for themselves and their families.

“This has a positive impact on these women’s immediate communities as well, because they can share the knowledge they’ve gained and create employment opportunities for others.”

Stepping stones to success

The first of 2021’s programmes, the incubator-style Youth Enterprise Development Programme, targeted out-of-school and unemployed young women looking to start a business.

Over the course of 10 months, they learnt business theory and gained practical experience by starting up and managing their own businesses.

Graduates received a NQF level 4 services Seta-accredited youth enterprise development certificate and an IBM skills build digital literacy certificate. They also received additional business support as they started their own formal enterprises, thanks to a six-month mentorship programme.

The second initiative, the Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme, focused on helping the women owners of existing businesses to grow and upscale these enterprises to sustainable levels.

Thanks to the skills I gained from the Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme, I was able to grow my business and provide jobs to empower others in my community
Zinhle Nkosi, CEO and founder of lighting company Uthingo Olusha

Over the course of six months, these women were equipped with the essential problem-solving, leadership and communication skills needed to compete in a modern business environment.

They were also exposed to digital and micro-financing platforms, helping them access the tools and capital needed to boost their endeavours.  

Zinhle Nkosi, one of the programme’s graduates and CEO and founder of lighting company Uthingo Olusha, described it as being a stepping stone to success.

“It afforded me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of the world of business. Thanks to the skills I gained, I was able to grow my business and provide jobs to empower others in my community,” she says.

Nkosi says partnerships such as the one between Mastercard, JA SA and entrepreneurs are “important in breaking the cycle of unemployment and uplifting women”.  

Addressing entrepreneurial inequality

According to the 2020 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, women account for only 19.4% of business owners in SA. They’ve also been adversely affected by the pandemic, with 59% of the country’s women-owned businesses operating in sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn such as retail, restaurants, food shops and domestic services. 

To help curb this entrepreneurial inequality, Mastercard has made a global commitment to connect 25-million women-owned small businesses to the digital economy by 2025.

WATCH | Ayesha Isaacs is the owner of kre-Ationz, a budding clothing and accessories brand in Cape Town. She shares how participating in one the entrepreneurial development programmes run by Junior Achievement (JA) SA in partnership with Mastercard has empowered her to grow her small business.

As part of this effort, women entrepreneurs will be given solutions that can help them grow their businesses, including funding, mentoring and the development of inclusive technologies.

“SA’s women entrepreneurs are a vital source of innovation, prosperity and economic growth. But inequality and exclusion still hold them back, with many still lacking the resources, training and capital to build sustainable businesses,” says Kamini Redhi, marketing and communications director for Southern Africa at Mastercard.

“By collaborating with JA SA, we’re able to provide the support women need to start and grow their own enterprises, driving inclusive and equitable growth.”

More than 3,500 young South Africans, mostly young women, have benefited from the 11-year partnership between Mastercard and JA SA. 

This article was paid for by Mastercard.