As South Africa edges towards greater levels of gender equity, we all stand to benefit from the economic opportunities this will undoubtedly create - we know that when women do better, economies do better.
In a new study conducted by Development Economics on behalf of Facebook, it is estimated that businesses set up by women in South Africa over the next five years (from now until 2022), hold the key to unlocking more than R175 billion a year for the economy while creating 972 000 jobs.
It is encouraging to see that Africa has among the highest proportion of female business leaders in the world - 27 percent in Africa, compared to 24 percent in the eurozone and 13percent in developed Asia Pacific nations.
If we look on Facebook, the number of new women-owned small business pages in a country like Nigeria, increased 319 percent between 2016 and 2017 - this in itself holds exciting opportunities for all women business owners, the possibilities of growth and job creation.
With more than 44 percent of South African women (aged between 18 and 64) saying they are fairly likely to set up a business of their own in the coming one to five years, the passion, drive and desire among women to succeed has never been more evident.
Financial independence is no doubt one of the many key motivations, but we also know the other driver for women is the desire to want to work "on their own terms" (50 percent) and to work around family commitments (39 percent).
That said, we also cannot be complacent about the many structural, psychological and financial barriers aspiring and existing female business owners in South Africa still face.
Lack of access to finance, not sure how to get started, worries about risk or financial security and low confidence are among those cited by women as the main barriers to achieving their business goals.
My personal belief is that every day we have the opportunity to make a difference, to give people the power to build communities and bring the world closer together. That’s why we’ve launched and continue to invest in programmes like #SheMeansBusiness, which aims to support, celebrate and empower women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses.
We know that technology is being used to bring down barriers -it creates opportunity, whether for SMBs such as Ntozinhle Accessorise, a South-Africa based designer that sells beautiful handmade jewellery and accessories and now sees 80percent of her sales coming from Facebook and Instagram.
Or whether it’s about creating communities which bring people together to spark ideas or share common passions, we know that technology can be used to unleash economic potential.
When women are successful in business it drives economic and social growth.
They employ more women; they act as great role models; they encourage more diversity; they invest in their communities, educate their children and pay back the benefits they receive from helping others.
This is the best way in which a network could work.
Nunu Ntshingila is a regional director of Facebook Africa.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
- BUSINESS REPORT