Women in the queues

It is Wednesday morning and the companies and intellectual property rights offices (Cipro) in Pretoria are packed with more than a hundred people wanting to formalise their businesses as close corporations, companies or cooperatives.

It is Wednesday morning and the companies and intellectual property rights offices (Cipro) in Pretoria are packed with more than a hundred people wanting to formalise their businesses as close corporations, companies or cooperatives.

The queues reflect an equal number of women and men - a radical change from the predominantly male queues that were the norm a few years ago.

Another interesting observation is that more than 90percent of the entrepreneurs are Africans, indicating a change in a business climate known to be predominantly white male.

Patricia Manshon, manager of business relations, marketing and communication at Cipro, confirms an increase in the number of entrepreneurs registering businesses.

"It's exciting to see all the women in the queues. The tide is certainly turning," she says.

Some women are in areas previously dominated by males such as construction, transport, information and communication technology and mining.

But there are still a significant number of women registering businesses in catering, accommodation, retailing and childcare services.

For most entrepreneurs, registration is an important stage in their business pursuits.

Getting tenders and sub-contracts from government or the private sector often require one to have an established legal and formal entity.

A few years ago, most entrepreneurs were legally registering their enterprises to take advantage of opportunities in black empowerment deals.

Opportunities created by BEE, cashing in on the 2010 Soccer World Cup and high levels of unemployment among women are just some of the factors driving the long queues at Cipro's offices.

BEE specialist, Erik Ackroyd, says many companies are not scoring very well on the new BEE scorecard. He says there is likely to be more business registrations because the codes of good practice want equality in the business world.

The move by Sars to grant tax amnesty to struggling small enterprises has been hailed as a step in the right direction.

It seems the move by Sars is encouraging many more entrepreneurs to consider formalising their operations.

Sars hopes that all street traders and informal businesses will register their enterprises.

Several men and women "street accountants" are on hand to help complete the documentation.

This article is part of a Women's Day series by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.

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