Durban - Women entrepreneurs and professionals must play a key role in growing the KwaZulu-Natal economy, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube told guests at a business awards ceremony at the weekend.
Dube-Ncube, speaking at the Ithala Development Finance Corporation Imbokodo Iyazenzela Women doing it for themselves 2019 awards hosted in Durban, said women entrepreneurs were vital to growing the economy and were making a significant contribution to economic growth and poverty reduction globally.
“In the United States, for example, women-owned firms are growing at more than double the rate of all other firms. They contribute nearly $3 trillion (R43.68 trillion) to the economy and are directly responsible for 23 million jobs.
“ In developing countries, female entrepreneurship is also increasing - there are about 8 million to 10 million formal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with at least one female owner,” she said.
South African women make up 52% of the population, and 57% of women are found in the informal trade sector, where they operate their own businesses.
“While women form the majority of small business owners, they are significantly outnumbered by men in the formal sector of the economy,” she said.
Dube-Ncube said the government wanted to see women fast-tracked into previously male-dominated sectors of the economy.
“We want women in this province to be involved in drone manufacturing and some to be trained in drone piloting.”
She also urged women-owned businesses to participate in the new South Durban multibillion Automotive Supplier Park and the R250 million boat building park, planned for Bayhead, which is expected to produce up to 150 boats annually, mainly for export.
“This will be a world-class park for the production and repair of leisure and commercial boats.
“It will be the single largest boat building facility in Southern Africa.
“The park will have a marine skills development centre to provide on the job and practical training for women,” she said.
Ithala group chief executive Pearl Bengu said women-owned businesses faced myriad challenges around marketing and sales and with obtaining access to the market and finance. She said Ithala would continue to recognise women’s successes in the SMME sector.
“The role of women is critical in creating an inclusive and sustainable economy where there is equal access to economic opportunities which is vital to create a platform for growth and to address the inequality of the past,” Bengu said.
A total of 568 entries were received and 20 finalists were selected and adjudicated by an independent panel of judges.
The winner of this year’s award was Philisiwe Mkhonza, owner of Impilwenhle Trading and Projects, a 584-hectare livestock farming company in Vryheid, followed by first runner-up Nokuthula Memela, owner of Kokstad-based Four Stars Communications, an education and business training operation, and Sbongiseni Mthethwa, founder of Ekhaya Beauty Spa in Pietermaritzburg, which offers a holistic approach to beauty treatments.