Susan Shabangu, minister for women in the South African Presidency, says her department will work with Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) to ensure the funding available for female entrepreneurs and their projects is adequate.
Shabangu made the comments while briefing the media on Wednesday after she tabled her Budget Vote Speech in Parliament, and decried the fact women were still excluded from economic participation.
She said the Women’s Ministry was focused on promoting gender equality, with no economy able to grow by excluding any part of its people.
“This means that women, who constitute 52 per cent of the population of South Africa, must be incorporated in the economic development plans in order for South Africa to fully develop,” she said.
“Amongst others, our department will be working with departments of the economic cluster to review the impact of the existing funding model on women’s empowerment in our country.”
A recent study by Statistics South Africa – Gender series: volume economic empowerment 2001-2014 – showed a need to intensify the fight against poverty and dismantle the feminisation of poverty.
“One of the issues if we look at South Africa, we have many DFIs which offer opportunities, which fund various businesses in South Africa,” Shabangu said.
“It is neutral, there is no talking on how best to bring women on board, how do you create an environment which can attract more women to access funding when it comes to them as partners in business, when it comes to them as women entrepreneurs in contributing or playing a role in the economy.”
She said ring-fencing funds for female empowerment was not enough, and government needed to work on mechanisms of funding for women. DFIs must also look at programmes promoting inclusion of women.
“Empowerment of the funding of women must be mainstreamed. That is the engagement we are going to have because then it talks about equality, it talks about shifting our means of production in South Africa in a way that it takes us to the centre of the empowerment of women and changing lives of women in making sure that they don’t continue to rely on social grants and that they get skilled,” Shabangu said.
DFIs were in the line of fire yesterday after a survey revealed only three per cent of South African startups obtained funding from structures – such as DFIs – formally established to assist them.
Female empowerment in entrepreneurship has been firmly on the agenda across Africa in recent months, with organisations like She Leads Africa and TechWomen playing a large role. In South Africa, Western Cape startup support initiative Silicon Cape is on the lookout for “warriors” to join the sub-committee of its Women Portfolio, with those selected charged with furthering female involvement in the local tech scene.