How women empower our economy

by ashley

More women-run businesses are the tonic our country desperately needs. Women entrepreneurs make enormous contributions to economies, stimulating them, reducing poverty, creating jobs, and setting a direct path towards gender equality.

For instance, a McKinsey Global Institute study found that advancing women’s equality could add $12 trillion (R180 trillion) to the global economy by 2025.

We boast exceptional women entrepreneurs who are already playing a critical role in jump-starting the economy and getting the country’s food security, job creation, and financial stability back on track after a tumultuous two years.

In South Africa, according to research by Development Economics, women-owned businesses established between 2018 and this year may generate about R175 billion a year and create close to 1 million jobs. The World Bank also reports that women are critical for job creation.

According to the latest Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs report (with the latest due this March), only 19.4% of the businesses in South Africa are owned by women –  a significantly lower percentage compared to African states like Uganda, Botswana, and Ghana, who ranked the highest on the list. It goes without saying that women-led businesses in South Africa need our attention and support.

“Women play a pivotal role in the growing African economy – many of the notable businesses and startups we’ve had the honour of engaging with for our events and on our learning platform are founded or headed by women,” says Fred Roed, Heavy Chef CEO. “And yet women currently receive a paltry 1% of venture capital investment in Africa, despite making up 60% of the small business owners on the continent”. 

To shake a few trees, ask some hard questions about the status quo and search for solutions about the future, Heavy Chef invited three impressive voices Erin Louw, a highly-regarded brand specialist in the fintech space, Vusi Vokwane, a seasoned entrepreneur, and Lelemba Phiri, an award-winning educator and gender-lens investor who is passionate about women leadership and entrepreneurship development in Africa and has committed her life’s work to advance equality and empowerment for women. They are all passionate about empowering women in business and have the experience to match.

The ‘Investing in Women’ event hosted these respected entrepreneurial minds on a live stage to explore how the investment space can better serve women-owned businesses. 

Vusi is a seasoned retailer with a passion for stimulating the township economy. A former private banker, she has set out to revitalise businesses in townships across South Africa because she has first-hand experience of its untapped potential for economic growth. In her capacity as Kasi Catalyst director, Vusi has played a key role in negotiating the transfer of 150 shops in Langa, Gugulethu, and Nyanga in Cape Town to historical tenants, enabling them to pay discounted prices for the space. She’s held various positions at NAFCOC, including National Deputy Secretary, and has sat on the Motsepe Foundation Funding Committee.

Erin has over 16 years of experience in consumer finance and fintech environments. She’s the founder of Xena. world, an exciting new networking app for women entrepreneurs that provides them with a business community, mentorships, and access to funding. Erin is passionate about creating engaging work environments and platforms to drive innovation and seamlessly align the people and business strategy. With degrees in medicine and psychology, she has launched an award-winning employee wellness programme and performed as an international speaker on the subject. Erin has also headed up successful digital and content marketing strategies for Retail Capital.

Lelemba Ph.D. (c) is an award-winning educator, author, keynote speaker, and gender-lens investor. She is the Principal at the Africa Trust Group, the fund manager for the ZAR100m Enygma Ventures gender lens fund focused on women entrepreneurs in SADC and the ZAR20m Shift fund focused on post-pandemic solutions. Lelemba is also a director and shareholder for Zoona, an African mobile payments business that enables community entrepreneurs to provide much-needed financial services in their communities, and Startup Circles, an online accelerator platform that fast tracks entrepreneurs to launch their business and access investors. She has worked with private, public, and government organizations for over 16 years with experience extending across South Africa, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Angola, and other sub-Saharan countries. 

The event was proudly brought to you by Heavy Chef partners PayFast and Xero. Other best-of-breed partners include Workshop17, xneelo, Digital Planet, Whipping The Cat, Creed Living, and more.

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