International Women’s Day

Unlocking opportunities for women-owned businesses

Date: Monday, March 18, 2019

Photo: UN Women /SAMCO
Photo: UN Women /SAMCO

The UN Women South Africa Multi-Country (SAMCO) commemorated International Women’s Day 2019 with Intsika Women Business Association in Kwa Zulu Natal province, South Africa. The event forms part of SAMCO’s Flagship Programme Stimulating Equal Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs. 

As part of the flagship programme, UN Women SAMCO works with governments, corporates, UN entities, investors, civil society and women entrepreneurs to leverage procurement to deliver on several Sustainable Development Goal targets. These targets include promoting development-oriented policies that encourage the growth of entrepreneurs; increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship; and enhancing the use of technology to promote women’s empowerment.

Unlocking opportunities for women is critical as though public procurement accounts for more than 30 percent of GDP in developing countries – R800 billion in South Africa, women-owned enterprises still receive only an estimated 1 percent of the total annual spend. South Africa performs higher at 9%. Yet according to a study conducted by Development Economics in 2018, in the next five years, women owned businesses in South Africa have the potential to unlock over R175 billion a year and create nearly 100 000 jobs. 

The commemoration was in the form of a dialogue for women-owned business from district level to engage with key government departments including National Treasury, Department of Social Development, Department of Local Economic Development, Women business owner from KwaZulu Natal districts and Nedbank.

Opening the dialogue, Intsika Women in Business CEO Ms Zola Shabangu thanked women entrepreneurs who had paved the way for other to succeed in business.  "We are who we are today because of women entrepreneurs who traded in Tupperware, Avon, stokvels[1], and tuckshops[2]. A big applause to the millions of unsung heroes who brought us here".

The dialogue identified mining, the ocean economy, energy, ICT, agriculture, transport and logistics as sectors that women should begin to explore to expand their market share.

Key issues raised at the Dialogue included the need for frequent platforms for networking and learning such as the IWD Dialogue; access to finance for Women Owned Businesses; access to business opportunities in high revenue sectors such as renewable energy, agriculture, waste management; and ensuring women input policy formulation process at both national and provincial level.

There was also an emphasis on the need for entrepreneurial activities to have an impact at community level. Some of the issues raised in this regard were: localising businesses at community level; ensuring that commercial banks understand the challenges of women-owned businesses and ensuring that banks’ Corporate Social Investment programmes are aligned to community challenges; and localizing businesses at community levels.

At the end of the dialogue several resolutions were formally adopted including a decision to have a formal protocol between Intsika Women in Business and the Provincial Treasury that would ensure women can access procurement information also input into policies that are meant to economically benefit communities. Intsika Women in Business will work in collaboration with partners who participated in the dialogue to prioritize the resolutions and convert them into concrete actions.

Following the dialogue, a pledge was signed, as part of the IWD Commemoration, between Intsika, UN Women, the Department of Social Development, the Department of Economic Development and Strauss Daly. All partners committed to consciously and proactively increase participation of women in the South African economy.



[1] Savings clubs

[2] Informal, small general dealers