A framework for the development of women entrepreneurship in the Ekurhuleni district
With nearly half of its population living in conditions of extreme poverty caused by high unemployment rate, the economic realities of South Africa are harsh. And yet, the promise of sustainable development remains bright. By creating economic growth, South African entrepreneurs are proving to be at the heart of that promise, and a key weapon in the fight against poverty (Mboweni, 2000:1). Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship form therefore important parts of any national economy. Governments have increasingly recognised the importance of SMEs and entrepreneurship development. It is now widely recognised that a facilitative or enabling support programmes and the appropriate regulatory environment is crucial to the development of small and medium enterprises. However, programmes aimed at supporting SME and entrepreneurship development tend to be gender neutral. Women's economic potential may thus remain under-utilised with attendant macro-economic consequences. Although limited research was focused on this topic in South Africa, international research has shown that women face a number of difficulties in establishing and maintaining businesses. Although most of these difficulties are common to both genders, in many cases they tend to be more significant for female entrepreneurs (Edwards, 2001: 45). This is due to factors such as: gender discrimination and stereotypes, differences in the way women and men approach entrepreneurship, difficulties in reconciling business and family obligations, the choice of business types and sectors, information gaps, lack of contacts and access to networking. Women entrepreneurship is still in its infancy in South Africa and only recently did the government start to focus on this dynamic field of high importance. The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has over the last few years tried to undertake a range of initiatives to promote and support the economic empowerment of women. Ekurhuleni has to be one of the best areas for doing business in Africa. Its infrastructure, facilities, location and business climate all help make Ekurhuleni attractive to any business proposition and international investors but with this come the reality of an amends competitive environment therefore creating an environment with tremendous challenges for the entrepreneur. The objective of this study was the compiling of a framework for the development of women entrepreneurship in the Ekurhuleni district. A survey of 80 women entrepreneurs was conducted. A detailed description of the female entrepreneur in Ekurhuleni was compiled from empirical research. The biographical information of the female entrepreneur was discussed followed by the structure of female owned businesses within Ekurhuleni. The path to ownership was explored as well as the views of the entrepreneurs in regards to the support offered by Ekurhuleni, the motivational factors to enter self-employment, obstacles faced during the start-up phase, obstacles that are currently experienced in daily operations and the support needs of the female entrepreneur. Constraints faced by women entrepreneurs in Ekurhuleni district are complex and calls for a parallel range of services to address them. Broadly there are three kinds of services which will be effective in supporting these entrepreneurs and as a result addressing the various barriers faced by them, i.e. promotion, strategy and support. In the light of above and the research results, a development framework was compiled to specifically address the needs of women entrepreneurship in Ekurhuleni.