Posted: October 31, 2011
|TWIB conference in Bloemfontein|
|TWIB 2011- Using Technology to grow sustainable enterprises for job creation
I greet you all on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry, Special thanks to the city of Bloemfontein for seeing the potential and benefits of hosting TWIB 2011, we feel very welcomed indeed and at home.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor for me to welcome you to this year’s Annual TWIB Seminar and awards and a special welcome to the finalist that have made it this far.
What a year, 2011 has been a good year, there have been a number of initiatives, achievements that have contributed to and in a way taken issues of women’s economic empowerment to a different level. One critical aspect of this year is the women’s month which saw 2011, being declared, the year for “economic empowerment for South African women” and a well fitting theme to support and promote the economic mainstreaming of our country’s women was: “Working together to enhance women’s opportunities to economic empowerment”.
Through this theme a number of issues that still constraints women’s full participation in the economy were highlighted and brought to the attention of Government and the Private Sector. Various discussions around the country emphasized the role of women as equal partners in the economic, social and cultural development of society, as well as ending economic marginalisation of women. This theme served the purpose of taking forward the Government’s agenda of women’s economic empowerment.
2011 Women’s Month highlighted the economic empowerment of women as a critical element of success for South Africa’s efforts to achieve the targets on economic growth, including the creation of five million jobs within the next 10 years, as outlined in the New Growth Plan. We therefore applaud the Ministry of women for leading such a powerful campaign.
Through this campaign we learn that despite efforts deployed towards economic empowerment of women, the majority of the active female population continues to be confined in the micro and small-scale enterprises and the informal sector. Their integration into the formal sector is still constrained by limited access to credit, property, technology and technical skill.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you would very well be aware, part of my responsibility in this Office is to champion women economic empowerment and participation, as well as ensuring that women owned enterprises are integrated into the mainstream economic activity in South Africa. In a broader context this is located within the struggle of women against the triple oppression and all other forms of discrimination towards women. As such, ours is really about addressing the gender question and empower women to be their own liberators from both the economic and social points of view.
Where are we in terms of the world economy? The economy of South Africa is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the world Bank, which makes the country one of only four countries in Africa represented in this category (the others being Botswana, Gabon and Mauritius). Until the global economic crisis hit South Africa in late 2008, economic growth had been steady and unprecedented. As we speak today, unemployment is one of the most important challenges facing the poor people in our country. This has been made worse by the fact that over the last two decades, the formal economy (especially mining) has been shedding jobs and many workers were retrenched. Furthermore, every year hundreds of thousands of new job seekers (the vast majority of them youth) join the army of unemployed.
The Integrated Small-Enterprise Development Strategy recognizes that small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) represent an important vehicle to address the challenges of job creation, economic growth and equity in our country. Throughout the world, one finds that SMMEs are playing a critical role in absorbing labour, penetrating new markets and generally expanding economies in creative and innovative ways. In order for SMMEs to have a big impact on unemployment and poverty reduction since they contribute a bigger percentage of South African business sectors, we acknowledge as Government that definite steps need to be taken to stimulate their performance and success.
Studies by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor show that a far higher percentage of women entrepreneurs dominate this sector (as compared to men). Our vision is that women become a strong and visible component of both SMME and big business sectors. It is not only just South Africa but the world over that recognizes that women’s enterprises are central and must be counted as part of those successfully growing the economy. Therefore women need to actively engage in the process of searching and identifying suitable related technologies for their enterprises. They need to set trends and educate themselves in order to set best practices. South Africa women must think big and seek to provide solutions through technological innovation not just for South Africa but for global markets.
The innovation and technological prowess from the women that TWIB seeks to celebrate and acknowledge is certainly what is required for us to grow our economy. For without a growing economy, we will not be able to deliver on job creation and meet our set targets. Women’s enterprise must be assisted to create jobs for South Africa by challenging the perception that by adopting science and technology, automatically leads to job losses. Creatively, women’s enterprises, through TWIB should be exposed and encouraged to adopt technology, empowering them to unlock their creativity and potential. By creativity, I am referring to the ability to diversify and modify our products to meet ever changing business demands, together with the demands of our international and domestic clients. Attracting new clients means increasing our production, which in turn, requires our enterprise to hire more people.
Their products must compete and find a place in the international markets. These products should be accompanied by uniqueness, excellence, technological sophistication and innovation. It is only once these qualities are embraced as part of our own manufacturing, designing and delivery standards, that South African women produced products will excel in the international market.
As I speak to you today the dti has taken a delegation of 40 women to the US in an initiative that aims to expose them to business opportunities abroad. You too can be part of such initiatives….
The promotion of entrepreneurship and small business remains an important priority of the government of South Africa. Our commitment is to ensure that small businesses progressively increase their contribution growth and performance of the South African economy in critical areas such as job creation, equity and access to markets. The stimulation of SMMEs must be seen as part of an integrated strategy to take this economy onto a higher road – one in which our economy is diversified, productivity is enhanced, investment is stimulated and entrepreneurship flourishes. Of late we learn of encouraging stories of women who are moving away from traditional hawking into more value-adding business opportunities, such as franchising, furniture manufacturing, printing, travel agencies and property development to name but a few.
As the dti, we would like to congratulate those women who have weathered the storms and entrenched themselves into the economy with minimal support or no support at all from government. We need such women to add their voices in paving the way for new entrants in the entrepreneurship sphere and serve as role models to aspiring business women. We call upon those women to encourage other women to venture into business or to progress in their businesses despite the challenges that they may be facing.
Ladies and gentlemen, TWIB as a programme has grown in leaps and bounds since it was first introduces by my predecessors. It has played a crucial role in encouraging and rewarding women entrepreneurs to utilize technology to advance their businesses. Today we have Twib Ambassadors in many provinces that continue to fly the TWIB flag and serve as an inspiration to women.
TWIB was designed to help South Africa’s women entrepreneurs get access to the applied science and technology they need to catapult their business into the big league and assist women to harness technology so that they can move from the sidelines to the mainstream of the economy. The programme focuses on women entrepreneurs at all levels of business, from micro to macro enterprises and seeks to fast track their skills development to enable them to embrace appropriate technologies.
Through this programme, hundreds of women have benefited and as a result they have grown and sustained their businesses. With each passing year, this special occasion gains momentum towards becoming one of the most prestigious events of the year, with more and more women entrepreneurs competing for TWIB award.
Technology has the potential to alter economic activity. It can be used to replace traditional means of communication, to manage business documentation and information, to perform usual business operations and to engage in business transactions or e-commerce (business to business or business to consumer). Technology and its proper application can help a business to grow in a number of ways:
the dti will continue to play a catalytic role in ensuring that women who commit to taking their roles in the economy by engaging in entrepreneurship activities get the necessary support that they require. Our commitment in this regard is clearly articulated in the dti Gender and Women’s Empowerment Draft Strategy (Department of Trade and Industry, 2006). This strategy has provided a valuable guide for the department on the promotion of a women‘s economic empowerment. The strategy takes a holistic view of how to empower women and to give support to initiatives that will, among other things, create strong institutions to represent women entrepreneurs and become advocates of addressing the unique challenges faced by women in business. We want to ensure that all possible stumbling blocks to women’s economic empowerment for women are sufficiently dealt with by the reviewed strategy.
the dti is also working tirelessly with its agencies to design bridging finance products through the South African Micro-Fund Apex Fund (SAMAF), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the National Empower Fund (NEF), Khula and Provincial Development Finance Corporations. SMMEs will also be given greater access to tender information and advice through expanded seda (Small Enterprise Development Agency) Procurement Support services at branch offices. There are also moves afoot to strengthen links between seda and municipal local economic development (LED) offices to roll out Procurement Support services outreach. We have realized that the benefits of incubation on entrepreneurship development and particularly, that of young entrepreneurs cannot be underestimated. Seda has already committed to Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) has embarked on a programme to roll out 250 incubation programmes over the MTEF period
In closing, I call upon the government and its agencies, civil society, private sector, as well as all partners, including international agencies to work together to engage women in enterprise development. I urge all our partners to participate in shaping the women’s economic empowerment programmes of the country and in reaping the fruits of such programmes. Other forms of engaging women enterprises could include the following forms; offering sub-contracting and procurement opportunities; become mentors to women entrepreneurs offering advice and guidance; form partnerships with women enterprises; and help women enterprises to better understand the dynamics of business
Finally sisters, I would like to both encourage and remind you of the potential that you have to influence the economic activities at a local, regional, provincial, national and even at an international scale. I call upon every woman to take their place in the economic space and the development of our country.