President of the Eastern Cape NAFCOC Women, Mama Chwayita Zituta and the Executive.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, Mama Zoleka Capha.
MEC for DEDEAT, Mlungisi Mvoko.
Absa Group Executive Head for SMMEs, Ronnie Mbantsane.
Miss Nogolide Macingwane.
The Invited Guests.

Programme Director; allow me to greet the entire audience present today in such an important Women conference, in business. I am always inspired to join women especially during this month of women, to interact with them and learn from them in terms of things that preoccupy them in their spaces of social and economic endeavour. I came here with that expectation of emerging here, more empowered from women who are on a daily basis involved in the economy, no matter the scale at which your businesses are operating.

The theme for this women conference is “Strengthening Economic Recovery and Reconstruction, Reviving, Resuscitating and Reclaiming the Business Space as Precious Jewels of NAFCOC Eastern Cape”. The efforts to economic recovery and reconstruction is a task that both government and private sector need to play so that we break-free with the setbacks that COVID-19 situation put us, in the last two years.

The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic) for a longest time has been driving the implementation of the policy framework on Gender and Women’s Economic Empowerment whose core imperatives has been to increase a number of enterprises that women control, have ownership and they manage. This included access to finance, local and international markets. Admittedly, we have fell short in this area as government and we are working on raising the implementation level.

Women are found largely in the small, micro and medium enterprises’ sector because it is difficult for them to scale up their businesses and break into the larger corporate value chains as suppliers. Furthermore, this state of affairs found across all sectors of the economy, and there is no one sector that can be shown as dominated by women.

Over the last three financial years, 139 women-owned enterprises operating in manufacturing, retail and services industries were supported and R1.1 billion was disbursed to fund these businesses. The total amount to these women-owned enterprise is R1.1 billion of which 55% was grants and 45% loans through partnership funds.

The total incentives, grants and funding for this financial year for the dtic, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and National Economic Empowerment amount to R23 billion. So now the remaining questions will be if only R1.1 billion goes to women-owned enterprises, what are we saying about women empowerment as government?  We are talking about an era of empowerment of women, what we need to do is to improve women ownership in manufacturing and increase their funding.

the dtic in partnership with National Empowerment Fund (NEF) established a Women Empowerment Fund aimed at enhancing the participation of black women owned businesses in the South African economy. Funding is provided in the form of concessionary loans or equity with a maximum interest rate of 2% to support projects that assist in creating jobs and increasing productive capacity. Implementation of this fund commenced in March 2021.

I know that many of you will ask as to how do these women access these kind of support. Many women tells us that they either applied for funding with the banks, the dtic or entities, but were rejected. There is a need to develop partnerships with other financial institutions to increase support of women-owned enterprises. However, what is actually key to this is that we need to increase the focus in both the townships and rural areas, and introduce policies that will lower barriers of entry for women in every sector.

As government, we remain committed to the women empowerment agenda. President Cyril Ramaphosa, in 2020, during the women’s day, announced that 40% of public procurement spent would be reserved for Women-owned businesses. This is a huge opportunity by any stretch of imagination considering the government buying power. I want to urge NAFCOC women to take a lead in ensuring that this pronouncement by the president happens for women. You must insist on Departments and State owned enterprises both provincial based and national, to set-aside procurement for women companies to deliver goods and services.

Because of COVID-19 difficulties, it has been difficult for government to make any evaluation since last year to date on whether government institutions are really setting-aside for women enterprises to do business and be empowered. The critical question is how do we use this opportunity to galvanise as many women businesses for various government procurements?

Also, how do we avoid fronting by men, using women as cannon fodders in the processes, and therefore undermine the very intentions of government in breaking the wall for women economic empowerment. We must accept that the women empowerment agenda has taken a back seat. When we saw the emergence of women owned companies like WIPHOLD, over 20 years ago, led by outstanding women like Gloria Serobe, Louisa Mojela, Wendy Luhabe and Nomhle Canca, we were all emboldened that this agenda will inspire and result into many other women owned companies formed and signing big transactions in the economy. NAFCOC women must bring back the women empowerment agenda, back on the table.

In this regard, I am excited that NAFCOC women already has resolved to establish an Investment company for women in business, and replicate this model to all 9 provinces, for women. I am told that part of its mandate would be to act as a venture capital for women enterprises. This would be a game-changer. One of the most reasons why women companies fail with all the good vision is lack of funding. Commercial banks still have trust issues with women owned companies. Even if they come with solid and bankable business plans, demonstrating capacity to understand what they want to do, but they get sent from pillar to post, compared to men. For NAFCOC Women Chamber to resolve to establish a venture capital investment for women, this will solve many funding problems for women in business

It has been found, through research bodies, that SA’s women-owned businesses present a lower statistical risk for business financiers. Women-owned businesses account for a lower percentage of non-performing loans, according to Business Partners. The growth of entrepreneurship among women in the country has been encouraging.

I am glad that as NAFCOC Women chamber, you are going back to reclaim township and rural economic space. Historically, NAFCOC, since its formation in 1964 in Orlando – Soweto – has been rooted to the township economy, which was informal and informalized by apartheid system that reduced us to bigotry. In townships, the main economic activity is retail businesses, whilst in rural areas is the dominance of the Agricultural economy. This is the space that NAFCOC need to plug and play to build more township and rural entrepreneurs. As the dtic, we are currently busy with the development of the coherent township and rural economic policy that will be overarching. Currently, Gauteng and KZN have put this policy in place and as the national government; we are working on the national framework for which your members will benefit through its implementation, working with the Department of Small Business Development.

Access to land for rural agriculture is a critical aspect that I urge NAFCOC Women chamber to take up, on behalf of many rural women involved in agriculture. Engagement with traditional authorities for women cooperatives and others forms of social organization in order to produce for markets, must be pursued. I trust NAFCOC in this regard because you have always been the voice of the emerging black SMMEs thriving at the periphery of the main economic stream.

Related to the rural economy, this province is endowed with the perfect soil and climatic conditions in the area of OR Tambo, eMampondweni, for cannabis cultivation and hemp. Since government legalized the cultivation and commercialization of cannabis, we need to see women being at the forefront, not just primary cultivation but also entering the value-chains through value addition. Hemp creates medicines, health products and clothes. The market is growing and including export market. I was excited in 2019 when the MEC was passionately moving with speed, even going for overseas study tour in order to set up the industry here in Eastern Cape. This is our green gold.

The second commodity that is good in Eastern Cape is macadamia nuts. Those who have enough land must consider planting these nuts, after 6 years, they are ready for over 20 years harvest. The biggest market is in Europe. The Ncera macademia farming which 30 km South of East London is a perfect example. It was funded by national Department of Agriculture and have a processing plant, and are exporting to Europe, through Durban harbour. They have a huge Nursery of seeds for those wanting to enter this nuts business. These are few new areas of the economy that women must get into and run their enterprises.

As I conclude, I want to say that as the Department, we are willing to work with NAFCOC and assist where we can in rebuilding this economy from the ashes of COVID-19. Support for women enterprises is close to my heart and working together with the Department of Small Business Development, a lot can be achieved for your members in business.

Thank you.

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