August marks Women’s Month in South Africa – a month dedicated to celebrating, remembering, and acknowledging the massive strides women have made for themselves. This is even though women still face many challenges such as a lack of equal opportunities, gender bias, outdated ideas about the roles women should play in society, and the gender pay gap.
This year’s Women’s Month theme – “WE make CHANGE for Women” – speaks to the need for more efforts to purposefully address these challenges while promoting gender equity and balance.
Women’s Month is not only a time for everyone – regardless of their gender – to sit back and reflect on what South African women have achieved over many decades, but it also gives everyone the opportunity to take stock of the health of their business and their finances and re-evaluate their financial goals.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of our economy and account for 60% of jobs in Africa, yet they still predominantly operate using cash. Over 60% of people in Africa remain offline, and those who are considered ‘online’, have connectivity that is slow, or unaffordable. In addition to this, access to digital solutions declined during the pandemic.
For women, access to training, digital tools, credit, and resources are key to the survival of their businesses. Beyond payments solutions, it is important to include all SMEs into the digital economy safely and securely, helping them to get paid, get access to financial support, and get digital – wherever they are. This is vital because a digital world means better choices, better pricing for goods and services, and improved cybersecurity.
While the COVID-19 pandemic saw thousands of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) close their doors, women continued to show up as resourceful, resilient, confident, and optimistic. For many women, starting their own business is driven by opportunity. For others, it is driven by necessity as 41.7% of South African households are headed by women – many of whom are the breadwinners.
In South Africa, women make up 19.4% of business owners. However, according to research conducted by Development Economics, businesses established by women between 2018 and 2022 have the potential to generate R175 billion a year and create 972 000 jobs. Further research shows that 58% of entrepreneurs who established SMEs in Africa are women.
There are various ways in which women can safeguard their finances, educate, and empower themselves, and protect and grow their businesses:
Various ways women can safeguard their finances, educate & empower themselves & protect & grow their businesses
Get a mentor: A mentor is someone who will share their advice on how to be a successful entrepreneur and run a business, while also teaching you about their failures and what they have learned.
Be willing to take risks: We often wonder about what if things go wrong. But if we want to be successful, we need to take calculated risks (both financially and otherwise), and ask ourselves – what if things work out for the best?
Dream big: While society has tried to limit women in many ways when it comes to their careers or businesses, there is nothing stopping you from being courageous, taking your idea, and making it even greater.
Put yourself out there: Be proud of your business. Talk about it, start a social media account, make it easy for customers to support your business, and build a good reputation for yourself within your community.
Define your own measures of success: You are your biggest competitor. Constantly set the bar higher for yourself and set new short- and long-term goals regularly. Focus on what you have to offer, what makes your business unique, and build on that.
Build a network: It is hard to run a business on your own. Build relationships with like-minded people, seek out the best suppliers, ask for help when you need to, and offer your customers the best product and services possible. Word of mouth is powerful, and soon everyone will be talking about your business – if you make sure that you have a solid network to support you.
While women entrepreneurs might still have a long way to go, they have made significant progress and will continue changing the world through their hard work, perseverance, and determination.