Masisizane fund boosts women entrepreneurs to benefit South Africa
23-08-2017 05:37:00 | by: Bob Koigi | hits: 14444 | Tags:

 Women are an undervalued force in South Africa’s economy. To grow their positive impact the Masisizane Fund, an Old Mutual South Africa initiative has a strong focus on empowering women entrepreneurs.

It’s a focus that is yielding great dividends in the form of job creation and community upliftment.

The Masisizane Fund was established 10 years ago to drive entrepreneurship and assist marginalised South Africans to join the mainstream economy.

Through a partnership and hybrid funding model with the Old Mutual Foundation, Masisizane develops enterprises by providing access to funding as well as non-monetary support in the form of financial management and business advice. It gives preference to businesses with over 51% ownership by women, particularly in rural and peri-urban areas.

“We believe women have unique strengths that equip them to play a vital role in rekindling the economy,” says Zizipho Nyanga, CEO of Masisizane Fund. “Historically men have been favoured over women in accessing education and funding. Still today women lack social support when starting businesses and there appears to be an unconscious bias towards men and a misconception that women will not be as reliable with an investment as their male counterparts.”

Nyanga continues, “But research and also our own experience has shown that women tend to manage and invest funding more wisely than men and are better able to bootstrap their business in the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey.”

Another important point in women’s favour is that they tend to be good at networking, and they willingly and easily share their knowledge and skills with those around them, especially their children.

For Nyanga this is critical. “The broader impact we are striving for is to encourage entrepreneurship among the youth as a possible career choice,” she says.

Currently, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor of 2015/2016, the percentage of 18 to 24 year olds in South Africa involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity is considerably lower than the average for Africa. In fact, the figure for Africa is 2.4 times higher than the South African figure for this age group.

“We hope our support of women in enterprise development will begin to change this picture in the long term,” says Nyanga.

Masisizane’s successful empowerment of entrepreneurs through access to capital, skills and knowledge has created more than 6 900 jobs and funded more than 200 enterprises in total since the launch of the Fund exactly 10 years ago. During its first decade the value of loans and funding approved totalled nearly R500 million.

“We are confident that through ongoing enterprise development and job creation we will ultimately break the cycle of poverty in families, and make great progress in achieving inclusive economic growth in South Africa,” she says.