|The Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu|
WOMEN'S’ entrepreneurial spirit is one of the keys that apartheid South Africa perceived to be a dangerous rolling boulder that, if pursued in earnest, could have radically tipped the socio-economic scales in ways that could have injected life-changing energies into the worn-out economic orthodoxy.
Throughout South Africa’s communities, women’s enterprising spirit never existed for itself but as the pursuit of a citizen-driven capitalism that, beyond the pains of labour, continued to provide nourishment to families and communities alike.
Despite apartheid’s targeted intent to debilitate women’s entrepreneurial spirit, their determination crystallised with each hurdle.
Due to life’s necessities, and relying on their natural creativity, women similar to my grandmother, a woman who, without formal business education, managed to add value to an assortment of merchandise that sold in various niche markets in and beyond South Africa’s borders.
From Emanguzi and Oshoek to Thaba Nchu and Marico these women outmanoeuvred the double-edged sword of, on one hand, apartheid social engineering and, on the other, shifting consumer markets with ever-growing expectations.
Enterprising women’s response to this twin problem is evident in the Women’s Charter where, in 1954, they characterised colonialism and apartheid as socio-economically archaic regimes that are “a brake on the whole of society”.
For example, the introduction of the Natives Act in 1923 (predated by the Land Act of 1913) achieved at least four objectives: first, it formalised centuries’ old practices that limited women’s physical movement in their country; second, it kept large markets inaccessible from women’s enterprising aspirations; third, it rendered women entrepreneurs invisible; and lastly, it tore families apart.
In light of the impression created on women by the mechanisations of the then-rulers, women’sresponse to their incidental economic hardships was informed by the formation of the entrepreneurship-community nexus through which women entrepreneurs’ primary revenues were linked with families’ sustenance as well as communities’ prosperity.
Almost a century on from the Natives Act, democratic South Africa signifies a radical departure from these inhibitors of energetic community enterprising. Sections 146 (2) (c) (iii) and (iv) of our Constitution call for the protection of the participation of all in “the common market” and “promote[s] economic activities across provincial boundaries.”
In other words, our government has put the necessary formal measures in place towards the removal of entrepreneurship inhibitors within and between communities.
It is our view that only when entrepreneurship finds resonance within communities will South Africa be called “an enterprising nation”. However, getting to that era requires us to push the boulder beyond the tipping point by means of creating an entrepreneurial culture.
The lever that needs radical turning in order to effect radical and sustainable alterations among South Africans’ attitude towards entrepreneurship is a cultural one.
From the vantage point of the Ministry of Small Business Development neither a wishful amount of money nor any number of legislations will, in isolation, create an environment wherein social, informal, small, micro, medium, and co-operative-based enterprises by South African women will thrive and be sustainable.
Only when all of these factors coincide with and operate within a strong drive for the creation of entrepreneurial culture will life conditions improve meaningfully at society’s coalface: within communities. Meanwhile, the boulder rolls on unstoppable.
Having overcome the adversities of our past, and with the willingness to grow as entrepreneurs, it is only through investing in their conviction and translating that into enterprising deeds will South African women overturn present-day “brakes on the whole of society”.
In so doing, the Ministry is inviting enterprising women to contribute towards the department’s programmes among which are, for example: reduction of redtape both in the private as well as public sector; mentoring of future entrepreneurs; and incubating female-owned social, informal, small, micro, medium, and co-operative-based enterprises.
In the same vein, enterprising women are encouraged to participate in the variety of financial, non-financial and incentives’ support programmes offered by the Department of Small Business Development.
Today’s active women entrepreneurs are presented with a defining role: either they defend today’s economic brakes; or, as our forebears did throughout the dark era, they become active participants whose sole mission is to radically transform our country’s socio-economic relations.
As enterprising women, today we are being challenged to establish innovative and sustainable ways through which an estimated R30 billion that is in the hands of informal businesses can contribute towards growing our gross domestic product (GDP).
Indeed, citizen-driven capitalism is the “invisible hand” that can radically transform our economy, and the environment within which this capitalism may flourish is the culture of entrepreneurship.
Working closely with ministries in the economic cluster, the Ministry of Small Business Development represents the instant before the boulder rolls over the highest point of our economic adversities. Henceforth, the boulder should voluntarily roll forward in support of the creation of everyday businesses: people’s businesses.
Lindiwe Zulu is Minister of Small Business Development.
Source: Business Report