Tamiko Cuellar, founder and chief executive of Pursue Your Purpose. PHOTO:pursueyourpurpose.com

CAPE TOWN - Africa needs more businesswomen role models who can be champions in lifting up and inspiring other women to break the barriers into entrepreneurship as a vehicle to drive down the unemployment rate in the continent.  

This is according to Tamiko Cuellar, founder and chief executive of Pursue Your Purpose, a global firm that coaches high-performing, purpose-driven women executives, managers and leaders to successfully transition into entrepreneurship.

“Factually speaking and just based on the comments and the feedback that I heard directly from the women, there are not enough women role models. They were so grateful that someone would come here to talk to them and inspire them, so I feel like we do need to raise up more women leaders who can be champions in lifting up other women,” she said during an interview with the African News Agency.

“I don’t believe we have enough women role models that are reaching out to other women, although maybe there are successful businesswomen but maybe the effort to reach back into the communities is just not there like it should be.”

Cuellar has just completed a tour for aspiring and emerging women entrepreneurs in honour of Women's month in South Africa. The tour was a series of masterclasses based on her third book, Own Your Brilliance! A Woman's Guide to Hiring Herself.

She said her main focus is helping aspiring and emerging women entrepreneurs and those who want to transition into entrepreneurship to give them strategies and tools, as well as inspiration and motivation, and to activate them into entrepreneurship.

“So I arranged a four-city tour, beginning in Johannesburg and then going to Windhoek, Namibia, coming back to South Africa in East London and then ending here in Cape Town. 

Cuellar said she had found that it was necessary to write a guide for women who were wanting to make the transition into entrepreneurship and those who were already in entrepreneurship but still seeking guidance.

She said she had decided to do the tour in Namibia and South Africa because of the high unemployment rate in both countries. “In South Africa, depending on the report you read, is about 27 to 28 percent. In Namibia, it’s even higher, it’s 33 and in some reports, it’s 37 percent. So I found that when the jobs are not there, that would mean we have to create them and we have to use entrepreneurship as the vehicle to drive down the unemployment rate,” Cuellar said.

South Africa and Namibia has no shortage of talent but only a shortage of opportunities she added. “So I was here to sort of stimulate women because it is national women’s month in both countries and so it is a fitting time to empower women to go after their dreams and to take their talents and monetise them into a business.”

Cuellar said that throughout the tour she had found that women had lots of talent but lacked confidence. “I think another thing to break the barrier of the lack of confidence is for them to get around other people who are doing what they are doing, so having a support system because if you were told that this entrepreneur thing is not for you, that would crush their spirits and their dreams,” said Cuellar.

According to Cuellar, the challenge that is crippling Africa is teaching entrepreneurship at a basic level which leads to rural and township entrepreneurs being excluded from the formal economy where opportunities exist. Women need to understand that a lack of formal education does not necessarily mean they are not able to break into entrepreneurship.

“Sometimes the confidence level is lower because they feel I don’t have a degree,” she said, adding that she had three business degrees but not one of them taught her how to become an entrepreneur. 

There are some other things that are also barriers, especially with regards to technology, with internet speeds, connections and data plans and costs.

“Wifi and internet access is expensive here (South Africa) compared to the west. The percentage of what people have to spend on their average salary, some say it’s as high as 20 percent of their salary to get like an unlimited data plan,” she said, adding that government needed to know that if they wanted to facilitate business growth they would need to figure out  a way to make internet access more affordable.

- African News Agency (ANA)