A newly released survey reveals what drives and holds back female entrepreneurship in South Africa. Conducted by Standard Bank, some of the results are almost intuitive, while others are less obvious, showing that assumptions and stereotypes have little place in Africa’s business landscape.
Numerous studies show that jobs and economic growth on the continent will be dependent on innovation and entrepreneurship. But the survey of 130 South African female entrepreneurs, most of whom service the formal entrepreneurship market, found that most women still feel pressured to pursue a traditional career. Yet, if they follow their passions to become entrepreneurs, they are then pressured to be the “perfect businesswoman and homemaker”.
According to the survey, which was conducted in October to coincide with the first Lionesses of Africa Annual Conference in Johannesburg, female entrepreneurs need more resources (31%), support (24%) and networking (22%).
Limited access to new markets and funding are regarded as major impediments to new business growth, yet infrastructure, training and technology are not seen as barriers. This may be attributed to the sizes of their businesses; almost all respondents have small- to medium-sized enterprises with less than 20 employees (95%).
Of those surveyed, 44% have children, making it clear why support in the form of family and mentors is high on the list, and why work/life balance is widely viewed as the most common tension point, followed by financial instability.
Moving on to the motivations for entering entrepreneurship, respondents indicated that one of the main reasons for having a successful business is to make a social contribution to the community (42%). Others include following a passion (54%) and securing a future for themselves and their family (27%).
Jayshree Naidoo, Standard Bank Incubator Head, says that South African female entrepreneurs see investing for a social return and creating social change as important as investing for a profitable return. Thus, they play a critical role in economic progress.
Our survey found that being a female entrepreneur takes courage: 82% of the respondents agreed that they are “fearless”, but this is because the fear of not succeeding is greater than that of not acting. However, though making a success in the business world requires a great deal of emotional control, the pay-off is worth it: 46% surveyed say the best thing about being an entrepreneur is the power to create their own future.
According to Ms Naidoo, the concern remains that while many women have great ideas and the necessary skills, breaking down barriers to infrastructure and improving access to markets is needed. This is why we stand committed to helping female entrepreneurs thrive in Africa, driving the continent’s growth and progress.
If you’re hoping to take your business to the next level, sign up for an invaluable opportunity to take part in one of the Standard Bank Incubator’s Business Development Programmes.