It’s Time To Harness The Economic Power Of Women In Business


One of the biggest collective challenges South Africa is facing is the unemployment crisis. StatsSA’s latest figures show that a third (32.7%) of working-age people in South Africa are unemployed.



The unemployment rate among the Black African (36,8%) population group remains higher than the national average and other population groups, and Black African women are the most vulnerable with an unemployment rate of 39,1% in Q3:2022. This is 4% higher than the national average for women at 35,1%.

Kebalepile Matlhako, Transformation Specialist at the BEE Chamber, says one of the biggest overlooked fixes for the unemployment crisis is to harness the economic power of women in general but with a particular focus on Black Women. “Through the ages and in many cultures, including many local cultures, women have been the economic driving force of their communities.

For the best part of our recent history women have been side-lined, and many women were relegated to the role of an employee at best or economic outsider at worst. We are finally recognising the many fervent women entrepreneurs among us who can add enormous value to our economy. Women need equal opportunities to break into the ecosystem.”

Every industry in this country has supply chains where women can make their mark, bringing incredible local products and services into the market, injecting valuable skills and knowledge transfer into our local ecosystems, and creating good jobs. 

At the government’s WECONA conference which took place towards the end of 2022, research was presented that shows that global value chains account for 50% of global trade and that in developing countries women make up 33,2% of the workforce. 

“A target was set to count and record all the women-owned businesses in every industry so that they can access opportunities in all our government and private sector supply chains. To put words into action, the government set a 40% Preferential Procurement target for women-owned businesses. If we can bring a lot more women into our economic ecosystems, we can expand the scope of the economy, increase productivity and create millions of rippling economic opportunities across our society.”

“However, to get there, we must create the demand, incentives, and skills for both the public and private sectors to meet those targets. Businesses and government departments need to grasp and think about the importance of actively sourcing from women, and then they need to learn how to actually do it by educating themselves on what preferential procurement entails and how to make it happen.”

B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice provides an incentive, through points, to procure from at least 30% black women-owned companies, yet most buyers do not prioritise these. They focus more on the B-BBEE Level rather than on the diversification of suppliers. 

Matlhako explains, “There is a huge misalignment when it comes to BEE practitioners having a clear understanding of how the B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice should be implemented, and how to match B-BBEE opportunities where they are needed. We need to address this issue head-on, without delay.”

The BEE Chamber offers three very practical suggestions: 

Establish, support and source from companies owned by Black Women with a particular focus on those from underdeveloped areas. 

100% black South African women-owned businesses need Enterprise Development and Supplier Development support. This allows for more localisation as small businesses have an opportunity to become part of supply chains. This support must be directed to areas that are identified, through a needs analysis, as developmental gaps and need not only be in the form of training, conferences, networking opportunities, mentoring programmes or other shortcut creative endeavours. 

Prioritise Preferential Procurement as a tool for economic and social inclusion. 

Businesses need a strong focus on supporting small to medium size black-owned businesses, which supports job creation, and then they need to learn how to implement this focus. Preferential Procurement can have a fast and lasting impact in helping black businesses and their suppliers and customers to grow. B-BBEE and inclusive & responsible value chain programmes provide a platform and rationale for inclusive supply chains, especially including Black Women-owned companies and key players. 

Prioritise strategic partnerships. 

Partnerships are critical to leverage transformational changes, work with marginalised groups, and potentially influence the structural dominance of patriarchy. The BEE Chamber provides a strategic platform for partners across sectors of industry who are working together to promote transformational B-BBEE.

Matlhako concludes, “We need to get very serious and very practical about creating a society and economy where we do not just pay lip service to women’s economic empowerment. We need to stop limiting procurement from women to corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives or tick-box exercises.

Women are just as serious about business as men, just as good at business as men, and just as capable of delivering the world-class goods, services and jobs that our economy so desperately needs. There is no reason why we cannot crack the economy wide open for women before the turn of the decade.”

For more information on The BEE Chamber, visit the website or call +27 11 726 3052.




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