To support the growth and development of women entrepreneurs and curb the high unemployment rate in South Africa, Mastercard funded two entrepreneurial development programmes in 2021 that have seen more than 180 young women gain entrepreneurial skills to start or grow their own businesses.
Facilitated by non-profit organisation Junior Achievement (JA) South Africa, the programmes combined market-relevant skills training, mentorship, and access to micro-finance to help young women better their lives, transition to sustainable livelihoods, and play an enlarged role in South Africa’s economic recovery.
While South Africa’s unemployment rate increased to 34.9% in the third quarter of 2021, research shows that unemployment among women – particularly black women – remains continually higher than men. Over 96% of the women in this year’s programmes are young black females between the ages of 18 and 35.
“Entrepreneurs characteristically have ambition, determination and a flair for original ideas. However, many lack the business expertise required to develop these into commercially viable ventures. Supporting women entrepreneurs through partnerships such as this is vital to their sustained growth, as they become self-sufficient and better able to provide for themselves and their families. This has a positive impact on their immediate community as well, with knowledge transfer and employment opportunities being created.”Nelly Mofokeng, Managing Director, JA South Africa
The Youth Enterprise Development Programme targeted out-of-school, and unemployed young women looking to start a business. Over the 10-month long incubator style programme, the women learnt business theory and gained practical business experience by starting up and managing their own businesses. Graduates from the programme received a NQF level 4 Services Seta Accredited Youth Enterprise Development Certificate and the IBM SkillsBuild Digital Literacy Certificate. They also participated in a six-month mentorship programme, which provided them with additional business support while they started formal enterprises.
The Entrepreneurship Accelerator Programme focused on assisting existing or operating women businesses or owners to grow and upscale their enterprises to sustainable levels. Through the six-month programme, the entrepreneurs were equipped with the fundamental skills required to compete in the modern-day business environment including problem-solving, communication and leadership skills. Business owners were exposed to digital and micro-financing platforms, helping them to access the tools and capital needed to boost their enterprises.
“The programme afforded me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of the world of business. Thanks to the skills I gained, I was able to grow my business and provide jobs to empower others in my community. Partnerships like these are important in breaking the cycle of unemployment and uplifting women.”Zinhle Nkosi, CEO and founder, Uthingo Olusha
According to the 2020 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, women account for only 19.4% of business owners in South Africa. Women have also been adversely impacted by the pandemic, with 59% of the country’s women-owned businesses operating in sectors hardest hit by the economic downturn like retail, restaurants, food shops and domestic services.
Recognising the need to address this gap. Mastercard is acting to curb entrepreneurial inequality through its global commitment to connect 25 million women-owned small businesses to the digital economy by 2025. As part of this effort, there will be a direct focus on providing women entrepreneurs with solutions that can help them grow their businesses including funding, mentoring and the development of inclusive technologies.
“South African women entrepreneurs are a vital source of innovation, prosperity and economic growth. But inequality and exclusion still hold women back with many still lacking the resources, training and capital to build sustainable businesses. By collaborating with JA South Africa, we are able to provide the support women need to start and grow their own enterprises and in turn, drive inclusive and equitable growth.”Kamini Redhi, Marketing and Communications Director for Southern Africa, Mastercard
Over 3,500 young South Africans, mostly young women, have benefitted from this 11-year collaboration between Mastercard and JA South Africa.