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Investing In The Next Generation Of Women Entrepreneurs



As we prepare to celebrate the launch of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) on November 19, 2014, we would like to share with you this Entrepreneurial Report from our friends over at Stimulus Women Network, a Zimbabwe-based network that supports the growth of women entrepreneurs.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 812 million women living in developing countries who could contribute more fully to their economies if they were enabled to do so. The need to build capacity in female entrepreneurs in developing countries and across the world has led to the launch of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) on November 19, 2014.  WED will be launched in the middle of the Global Entrepreneurship Week, 17th – 23rd November 2014 as a central focus of the week showing its importance in the global agenda.  The move to set aside a day to focus specifically on the needs of women entrepreneurs is welcome particularly in Zimbabwe where we see less women than men take the leap into entrepreneurship and make it.

Rudo Nyangulu-Mungofa (Mrs) – Director, Stimulus Hub & Chair, Stimulus Women Network

The fundamental question is, ‘what practical things can be done to build capacity and enable women entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe?’ The answer to this is multifaceted as it is prudent to take into account the different types of entrepreneur from a social perspective and from the point of intent. We will consider the two broad ‘intent’ categories of entrepreneur most commonly found in Zimbabwe today, that of the circumstantial entrepreneur and the high impact entrepreneur as categorized by Stimulus Entrepreneurship Hub. This classification seeks to differentiate between those whom out of necessity caused by the harsh economic climate in Zimbabwe have been forced into entrepreneurship in order to survive and those who passionately seek to realize their dreams and leave their mark through their entrepreneurial pursuits. Both categories of entrepreneurial woman have the same basic fundamental needs which are; capacity building through access to information, training, personal development through peer coaching, and mentor-ship and support through a like minded network of women, the community around her business venture and her family.

These needs particularly that of the personal development through networking, coaching and mentor-ship have been a consistent theme among women’s business support organizations in Zimbabwe in 2014. Led by Women Alliance of Business Associations  in Zimbabwe (WABAZ) in collaboration with the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Women’s desk, this focus has been a critical shift in thinking for women in business in Zimbabwe.  Internationally celebrated and award winning Zimbabwean woman entrepreneur, Mrs. Divine Ndhlukula and her team at the ZNCC Women’s Desk, who are the driving force behind WABAZ,  have positioned this platform to be able to empower women entrepreneurs from grass roots level to the boardroom and it has lead to the birth of Women in Enterprise Conference and awards and mentor-ship program.

The aim overall aim is to enable women entrepreneurs by engaging them, understanding their needs and enabling them to increase their contribution to the economy whilst addressing the gender imbalances between men and women in business.  “The day is an opportunity to celebrate, engage and empower female entrepreneurs as part of the larger global entrepreneurship celebration. In many countries around the world, women remain an untapped economic potential. A direct correlation has been found between the policies in place to support women, the opportunities available to women and women’s success in business globally according to Charlotte Lamontagne, Communications Associate at Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Lamontagne goes on to highlight that, “In developing nations, empowering women to be entrepreneurial helps reduce poverty for women, their families and their communities. However the recently released Gender GEDI (Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index) found that in nearly three quarters of the 30 countries surveyed, including 3 African countries, conditions for female entrepreneurship and business growth were unfavorable.” The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s 2013 report showed several important gender gaps in entrepreneurship that must be considered when addressing the ‘unfavorable conditions’ for growth in women entrepreneurship;

  • Men are three times more likely than women to own a business with employees;
  • Women rarely own large businesses, reflecting the composition of their professional networks, and their low levels of initial capital and bank financing;
  • Women’s average earnings from self-employment are up to 60 percent lower than for men; and
  • Competitive disadvantages for companies owned by women translate into lower levels of labour productivity that are 5 to 30 percent lower than those of companies owned by men.

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This OECD report offers examples of policy initiatives that might improve access to credit, as well as training and awareness, all of which can all help unlock what it calls “the double dividend of women’s entrepreneurship”

On Women’s Entrepreneurial Day, Stimulus, a social enterprise and entrepreneurial hub based in Harare launches through its women focused sub-network, Stimulus Women, an online platform designed to provide women entrepreneurs access to vital business information through an online business tool kit, access to business essentials training, online workshops, online discussion forums and mentor-ship in the safe environment of a peer network of like-minded women. This platform will be supported by a series of face to face conversations that seek to engage with women entrepreneurs in roundtable discussions around the country exploring some of the issues raised in the OECD report and the possible solutions in addition to the issues unique to Zimbabwean women entrepreneurs. The aim is to identify practical ways in which change can be initiated to create more favorable conditions for Zimbabwe’s women entrepreneurs today and in the future.

Women entrepreneurs who dare to dream beyond their current position and see entrepreneurship as a real and available avenue for them to take in order to have financial freedom by increasing their come and who seek mentor-ship to guide them will be rewarded with success in the long run. The financial risks of entrepreneurship still remain and may be greater in the Zimbabwe context, which is where enabling policies and access to affordable finance will go a long way to building capacity in women entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe.

Certainly the global consensus that entrepreneurship is a necessary growth factor for economies and societies in both developed and developing nations highlights the need to unlock the untapped and often neglected potential our economies can realize through women entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurial journey is by no means a sprint; rather a marathon suited to those who have the stamina to strive towards the finish line with a single-minded determination to succeed.

Jonathan Ortmans, President of Global Entrepreneurship Week said that “We live in a world where entrepreneurship is open to all. The world of business creation is no longer a matter of pedigree, family or elite education. Entrepreneurship has democratized the “business class”.

The Entrepreneurial Report by Stimulus Women Network

 

 

farai – who has written posts on Farai Today.


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