nless government and the private sector implement drastic measures to ensure that female entrepreneurs are mentored about access finance for their businesses, women in South Africa will continue to face massive barriers in the country’s economy. This is according to Farzanah Mall, president of the Businesswomen’s Association of SA (BWA), commenting on the presidency’s release by President Jacob Zuma of The Status of Women in the SA Economy report last Sunday.
Authored by the department of women, the report found that a lack of financial literacy was among the main barriers of access to finance for women in business or those who had start-ups.
The department has called for the private and public sectors to improve financial education for women to empower them to use financial products to their benefit.
Its report states: “Women score significantly lower relative to men in areas of financial control, financial planning, choosing financial products and general knowledge and understanding of finance. This lack of financial literacy can keep women from being able to know what financial products are available to them and how to utilise [them] to improve their economic situation.”
Despite positive policies that had helped women in other areas of the economy, the report found that many barriers in accessing finance and credit for women still existed.
Mall said the BWA’s 2015 Women in Leadership Census, which was released last month, also showed that drastic measures were needed to mentor women to be financially savvy.
“Part of the drastic measures we’re talking about are that we need to become investment partners with women because access to cash alone doesn’t guarantee success. You can give them R10 000 to start up the funding, but you don’t equip them with business knowledge in terms of what it takes to make a business successful,” she said.
Government also found that lower incomes compared with men and the negative attitudes financial institutions had about women were among the barriers to access to finance and credit.
The presidency has called for more “genderfocused” black economic empowerment (BEE) and business strategies for women, as they are the largest group of entrepreneurs in the country.
“Gender-focused business strategies must inform all BEE and financial-access measures.