DURBAN – The newly passed policy that sets aside 40 percent of public procurement for women-owned businesses is an important development for women-owned businesses in South Africa according to Janeesha Perumal, area manager at Business Partners Limited.
The policy, which was mentioned by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation Address, has the potential to meaningfully increase the number of women-owned businesses, says Perumal.
As the country starts looking to the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector to help rebuild the economy, women in business may see an opportunity to grow like never before.
This International Women’s Day, stakeholders across all sectors should consider the benefits of supporting female-owned businesses.
“There is so much potential for women to improve the industries they operate in by establishing their own businesses, as increasing the number of female leaders in any given industry inevitably leads to more diverse ideas and solutions. Aside from that, statistics also show us that female entrepreneurs often pose a lower risk of defaulting on loans,” said Perumal.
“In all my years of working in the entrepreneurship space, I have seen the number of women-owned businesses increase. We’ve also seen substantially more women get into industries that had almost no female players before, such as construction, mining, and manufacturing”.
However, there are a number of challenges that are still more commonly present for female entrepreneurs. For example, they balance domestic and business responsibilities more than is usually the case with their male counterparts.
In conjunction with the issue of gender there is inequality in terms of culture, which still gets ingrained into women, and makes them less likely to start their own business or build partnerships and networks for social capital needed in business.
Overcoming this barrier is one of the reasons why women need more support in the initial phase of becoming entrepreneurs, Perumal said.
Business Partners offers a technical assistance programme, which is coupled with business finance, to help business owners expand their capabilities.
This programme, while it is available to both male and women-owned businesses, can be particularly pivotal in supporting aspiring women business owners to overcome the challenges above, said Perumal.
Those who invest in women will see it pay off in the longer term, as these entrepreneurs start to grow and demonstrate their capabilities in business, she added.
“We’ve seen how women often have a better relationship with their employees and understand their career goals. In doing that, we see them help their employees achieve better efficiency in their jobs, which leads to increased productivity in the business. Women have also been shown to establish better long-term business relationships with customers and suppliers. These are only two of the unique features women bring to their sectors, and these attributes have major potential to boost local industries.”
Perumal had these words to share with women who aim to build their own SMEs: “My advice is to believe in yourself and face your challenges head on. The president’s commitment to include more women in the public procurement process is one of the best opportunities that female entrepreneurs have had in years – so now is the time to start building your business up and make the most of this chance, as South Africa starts to experience the green shoots of recovery.”