The role of women entrepreneurs in ensuring the shared growth of the SA economy
Programme Director
Honorable Premier of Kwazulu-Natal Province: Dr Zweli Mkhize
Honorable Ministers and Deputy Ministers present
Provincial Members of Executive Committees
Leadership of SAWEN
Government officials from all spheres of government
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honor and a privilege for me to be here to welcome all of you to the Technology for Women in Business conference (TWIB). This is my first TWIB Annual conference since I was appointed one of the two Deputy Ministers of Trade and Industry last year. I am tasked with spearheading, among others, gender and women empowerment programmes within the Department of Trade and Industry.

This annual conference happens twenty years after President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was released from prison and all liberation movements were unbanned. As we celebrate this momentous event that lead to our liberation let us not forget what Madiba said, that “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will”. Also our freedom is meaningless without the full participation of women in our society.

Continuously blaming our failure to succeed, on our past experiences as a country and people will not assist us as a nation to move forward. While we acknowledge the injustices of the past let us recommit ourselves to the ideals that brought about our freedom. We must once again embrace a ‘can do attitude’. What is it that I can do to grow my business, am I able to create jobs for others? How do I modernize my business to use technology to give me a competitive edge?

I was tasked with addressing this conference on the “Role of Women entrepreneurs in ensuring the shared growth of the South African Economy”. Ladies and gentlemen maybe I should start by answering the question, “what is an entrepreneur”? The definition says that, “the availability of natural resources, labour and capital is not sufficient to ensure economic success but this has to be combined and organized by people who sees opportunities, are willing to take risks and produce goods that can be sold.

The entrepreneur is the driving force behind production, an innovator, an initiator who introduces new products and new techniques. They are risk bearers and people who take a chance, even if the odds are against them. An entrepreneur is dynamic, a restless spirit, an ideas person, a person of action who has the ability to inspire others.

Programme Director, during his State of the Nation Address, President Zuma said,” We also need to integrate gender equity measures into the government’s programme of action”. Indeed, if the women of South Africa are to share in the growth of our economy, the issue of gender equity will have to be integrated into our government’s Plan of Action. But Ladies and Gentlemen, the integration of gender equity into our plan of
action alone cannot ensure and/or guarantee that the women of South Africa will share in the country’s growing economy. The integration of gender equity should be complemented by the enthusiasm and diligent commitment of all relevant stakeholders and in particular, women entrepreneurs.

As indicated by Minister Pravin Gordhan during his Budget Speech on the 17 of February, income inequality in South Africa is amongst the highest in the world; and half our population in South Africa survives on 8 per cent of national income. This is a very disturbing reality considering that the majority of our population comprises of women. We therefore need to speed up the implementation of our programmes that can benefit women.

Programme Director, this year’s conference is themed “MAXIMIZING WOMEN’S SUCCESS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY” and this theme was carefully chosen to reflect our intentions of how we further intend to work towards the economic emancipation of women in South Africa through the sharing of this country’s growth. As we move forward, our priority is to drive implementation that will ultimately ensure that South African women, and in particular women entrepreneurs are major beneficiaries of the country’s economic growth. As part of ensuring that women of South Africa benefit from the economy’s growth the dti’s Gender and Women Empowerment Unit responded in the Strategic Framework on Gender and Women’s Economic Empowerment by proposing the re-alignment of TWIB through the Technology for Women in Business Awareness Programme as an intervention. The purpose of this programme is to link women entrepreneurs with relevant science and technology business solutions that will encourage their business activities.

This includes exposing them to both local and international best practices that will assist them to diversify and modify their products and services by using cutting edge technology to meet ever-changing business demands. It is our intention as the dti to implement this as a national drive awareness programmme aimed at encouraging women to use technology and also to be innovative in order to advance their businesses.

At the end of this conference we want to ensure that we have an agreed plan of action. A plan that we can both own and work towards in achieving one of the dti’s strategic objectives of promoting broader participation, equity and redress in the economy.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to share with you some of our women’s empowerment programmes in the department. In order to ensure that we continue to drive and fast track women’s economic empowerment in this country, as the dti through the Gender and Women Empowerment Unit.

After the approval of the strategic framework on gender and women’s economic empowerment by the department’s Executive Board, commencement on piloting the implementation of some of those interventions has begun. This include among others, the successful piloting of Bavumile which is a capacity building programme for women in Art and Craft and Clothing and Textile.

This programme is aimed at assisting women in product development, product packaging and pricing and basic business management trainings. I am also pleased to acknowledge the Adjudication Panel for the Program and also wish to take this opportunity to welcome them as they start to assist us in shaping the program in the right direction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, also allow me to report to you that after the official unveiling of Isivande Women’s Fund in Polokwane last year, all the received application forms have been submitted to the fund manager for assessments and funding. The fund is one of our strategic interventions to address the challenge of lack of access to business finance for women. Mr. Jeremy Pos, an account Manager at the IDC’s Risk Capital Facility responsible for this fund will give you a detailed presentation during the panel discussion on Financial Business Support for Women Entrepreneurs later this afternoon.

The Unit is also working on strengthening the South African Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (SAWEN) to ensure that it indeed represents and articulates the aspirations of all women entrepreneurs (existing and potential) that operate within the South African SMME as well as in the wider business sector. The strengthening of this programme was discussed in detail at the SAWEN Polokwane conference; those who will attend the national meeting tomorrow will be given a complete briefing.

It should also be noted that, most importantly, parallel to implementing the above-mentioned programmes, the dti’s Economic Research and Policy Coordination Division is assisting the Unit in monitoring and evaluating the impact of these programmes.

Women can today celebrate the shattered stereotypes around women and technology, women and finance, women and leadership as well as women and business; and are living proof that excellence knows no racial or gender boundaries. That when you have intellect, talent and potential you must never allow anyone to take it away or deny you its full usage.

Once women are technologically literate they can transact, educate themselves and their children, as well as trade globally, without leaving the comfort of their homes and villages. As a second economy intervention, technology has the power to link the second economy to the first economy and mainstream women. Countries like India, have already demonstrated, that it is possible for poor rural women in co-operatives to supply top retailers in developed countries and thus emerge from poverty. Our own techno-girls in the rural schools have proven that it is possible to get the best technical training, qualifying with internationally recognized certificates.

These interventions need to be amplified! Not just for business but for literacy, community development as well as in the combating of diseases. Imagine a rural doctor or nurse, being able to email some of the world’s top specialists, and get advice that can heal a dying rural woman, and thus save her life.

On the other hand, imagine one excellent mathematics teacher, teaching thousands of rural kids, and ensuring that they get top quality education, thus breaking the chain of poverty. The past winners of our techno-girls competition have come from all walks of life and from all provinces, representing an admirable urban and a rural spread.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are relying on your input during the conference’s discussions to enable us to create an enabling environment to ensure that women indeed benefit from our country’s economic growth. I therefore wish you the best of luck during your deliberations as the conference goes forward. Thank you to everyone who put in an exceptional effort to make this conference a success, from the participants to the officials, in particular from the Gender Unit, from the technogirls and the hardworking teachers to the adjudicators on the panel. To all who were involved in any way big and small, thank you.

Programme Director, Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight we will, in a form of a gala dinner, be awarding women entrepreneurs who have successfully and profitably innovated and applied technology to expand their businesses operations. This is the annual TWIB awards, which will be hosted tonight in this very same venue. Ladies and gentlemen you are most welcome to join us, I believe from previous ceremonies that it is an occasion not to be missed!

I thank you.

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