The WomHub’s Economic Growth Accelerator, a programme designed to support women-founded businesses in what WomHub defines as the fields of ’STEM’ by accelerating growth through leadership development and intensive entrepreneurial support, has received a boost from the South African Future Trust. Photo: File
The WomHub’s Economic Growth Accelerator, a programme designed to support women-founded businesses in what WomHub defines as the fields of ’STEM’ by accelerating growth through leadership development and intensive entrepreneurial support, has received a boost from the South African Future Trust. Photo: File

SA Future Trust boosts funding for women-owned businesses in science and technology

By Given Majola Time of article published Oct 12, 2021

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The WomHub’s Economic Growth Accelerator (EGA), a programme designed to support women-founded businesses in what WomHub defines as the fields of “STEM” – science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing – by accelerating growth through leadership development and intensive entrepreneurial support, has received a boost from the South African Future Trust.

The EGA consists of two tracks, of which the SMME Track is an accelerator that supports women founders of SMMEs of steady growth companies in established STEM markets.

It aims to support the growth of these companies, unlock their potential and enable them to grow and create job opportunities.

The second track, called the Venture Track, supports women who have founded potential high growth businesses. It has been designed for early-stage founders who already have a prototype or product and are looking to scale with venture support.

The SA Future Trust funding will enable the programme to target a total of 50 businesses over a two-year cycle.

The EGA kicked off in July this year and has brought together 25 South African women entrepreneurs in a year-long hybrid business incubation programme, comprising in-person and virtual engagement platforms.

The curriculum offers these founders holistic support consisting of master classes and ongoing venture skills. Master class topics include leadership development, well-being, business development and operations, governance and investment readiness.

WomHub co-founder Naadiya Moosajee said this partnership with the SA Future Trust would help to unlock much-needed opportunities and skills development for the selected EGA participants.

"The key outcomes of EGA will include an increase in revenue and sales, the chance to form partnerships and collaborations, as well as an increase in the number of jobs created by these businesses," said Moosajee.

SA Future Trust interim head Bridget Fury said as they support women-founded small businesses, their primary objective is to boost revenue generation and job creation.

“The real value will also be in nurturing the vital array of skills in these STEM fields, and, in turn, making a lasting impact on the SMME sector,” said Fury.

The recently published SA Future Trust SMME Baseline Report highlighted the need to support women-owned small businesses.

Of the 2 849 survey responses received, these businesses made up 43 percent. They also proved to be more resilient of those surveyed that had to close, 45 percent were women-owned compared to 55 percent of male-owned businesses.

“We believe the continued sustainability and growth of emerging entrepreneurs, especially women, will depend on innovative support mechanisms they can readily access, like the EGA. We are motivated by the resilience shown by women-owned SMMEs that the SA Future Trust supported previously, who fought to keep their businesses operational against the onslaught of Covid-19 and the economic downturn,” said Fury.

The SA Future Trust extended interest-free loans to 9656 SMMEs through the Covid-19 crisis and hard lockdown in 2020, which facilitated direct financial support to over 90 000 employees. Some funds from repaid loans were now being reinvested in initiatives like the EGA, which drive job creation and economic growth in the SMME sector.

Last month, Vodacom announced the launch of a programme that will see over 600 young girls between the ages of 14 and 18 receive coding training virtually from 4-7 October.

Vodacom’s #CodeLikeAGirl programme aims to encourage more girls to explore careers that require coding skills to help them get a start in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields and industries.

Participation by women is lagging in a field that is expanding globally, with men continuing to dominate the number of STEM graduates in most countries.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) recently expressed concerns expressed on this matter.

According to the Unesco report “Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM”, only 35 percent of STEM students in higher education globally are women. For example, only 3 percent of female students in higher education choose information and communication technologies (ICT) studies.

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