South African women make up approximately half of the country’s work force and therefore play a crucial role in the development of the economy. However, the low level and quality of female entrepreneurship in South Africa is hampering entrepreneurial growth and activity, as well as the country’s economic development.
According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, the profile of South African entrepreneurs has remained largely unchanged in the recent past.
“Although female entrepreneurial activity participation has gradually increased in 2010, South Africa is still behind the curve when compared to other emerging economies as men are still substantially more likely to be involved in Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development than women”
Naidoo says the 2010 GEM Women’s Report – which gauges entrepreneurship in 59 countries – states that women are equally likely to view entrepreneurship as an attractive opportunity as men, but tend to doubt their own personal capacity and ability, which may be attributed to their lack of personal contact with other female entrepreneurs.
“Research shows that the probability of a woman becoming an entrepreneur is vastly improved when she is exposed to fellow female mentors and role models.”
She says female entrepreneurs tend to pursue small-scaled necessity-based entrepreneurship, predominantly in the informal sector. “The 2010 GEM Report stipulates that the key to unlocking potential economic growth and job creation is through investing in ‘opportunity entrepreneurs’ and not ‘necessity entrepreneurs’. Men are twice as likely to be involved in opportunity-based entrepreneurship when compared to women.”
The latest Labour Force survey, conducted by Statistics SA, indicates that the female unemployment rate of 28% is 5.5% higher than that of their male counterparts. Naidoo says it is therefore crucial that improved entrepreneurial attitudes among women are created in order to improve female employment rates.
Naidoo explains that most policy makers and academics commonly recognise entrepreneurship as a key ingredient that fuels economic growth and job creation. “Not only does entrepreneurship positively impact a country’s economy, but it improves the social well-being of the country. Research from the GEM report conclusively illustrates a direct link between the level of entrepreneurial activity and per capita income.”