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Rise in female entrepreneurs pushes back poverty

Stock photo.
Stock photo.
Image: Monkey Business Images

In the 2020/21 Women’s Entrepreneurship Report, “Thriving through Crisis”, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found that globally 30.2% of women entrepreneurs surveyed are expected to hire six or more employees in the next five years.

It is indicated that women typically re-invest 90% of their income in education, health and nutrition for their family and community. For this reason it is crucial that women have a meaningful and tangible part in the economic development of Africa.

At the moment, an estimated $42bn financing gap exists for African women across business value chains – $15.6bn in agriculture alone – and if we cannot empower African women entrepreneurs and get them involved in supply chains, we will be doing the continent a disservice.

Make no mistake, the entrepreneurial spirit exists among women in Africa. More than 50% of entrepreneurs are women but 70% of economically active women are in the informal sector, with limited access to financial services.

According to Diariétou Gaye, World Bank director of strategy and operations for the Africa region, female entrepreneurs tend to confine themselves to the traditionally female sectors not because of a lack of skills or access to capital, but rather a lack of information.  Many of these women end up trading out of necessity in the informal sector operating as traders and entering the world of entrepreneurship through retail – but not all of them.

When we look at lists of successful entrepreneurs in Africa (like the Forbes 30 under 30 list or the Quartz Africa Innovation leaders list) it is evident that women are striving to thrive by building notable businesses with turnovers exceeding $1m per annum. In recent years, Africa has witnessed an increase in women-owned businesses in fields such as aviation, fashion, farming, IT, mining, manufacturing, oil, and more.

The challenge remains: How can we get these women upskilled to be included in the supply chain to build capacity?

As Absa we believe the answer lies within the framework of the following components:

  • Raising awareness through education and providing access to supply chain opportunities
  • Policies that support preferential procurement from women-owned businesses
  • Funding and de-risking opportunities through private sector and development financial institutions (DFIs)

Visibility and access to market opportunities in corporate supply chains for women entrepreneurs is an important departure point. Large corporates should do more to educate women in Africa on supply chain opportunities and how they can access them.

Education is key but not the sole answer to include women in the supply chain and this is where government policies can be a powerful lever.

Women who are aware and have access to opportunities, supported by policy, can do nothing without the financial means to leverage these. Funding and de-risking opportunities through private sector and DFIs can propel the inclusion of women into large supply chains.

The Absa Young Africa Works Programme is a collaboration between Absa Bank Ghana and the Mastercard Foundation to deliver requisite resources such as funding, training, access to industry experts and access to players along the value chain to help scale up micro, small or medium- scale business. Absa has noted that women are better at servicing debt than their male counterparts, and hence they have put together a product with better rates to accommodate these female business owners.

Empowering women addresses more than just the obvious global goals. When put in motion it will: reduce poverty (Sustainable Development Goal 1), contribute to zero hunger (SDG 2), reduce gender inequality (SDG 5), provide decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), reduce inequalities (SDG 10) and build sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11).

Absa is a proud contributor to the success of women, and the global goals. Let’s not only celebrate the women in Africa but, more specifically, the frontiers that empower and support these women.

Mparutsa is head of enterprise and supplier development for the Absa Regional Operations.

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