5 hurdles women entrepreneurs in Africa must overcome

Carin Smith

Cape Town - There are five main challenges women in Africa face when they try to enter the entrepreneurial sector, according to Ntobeko Mogadime of the social investment division of Shell SA.

She was one of the speakers at the third annual Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), which took place in Cape Town last week.

Mogadime told delegates – consisting mainly of women - that women entrepreneurs in Africa usually start informal businesses with the main aim of just being able to provide for necessities.

They are also faced by issues like gender stereotypes and find it hard to gain access to finance, education and markets.

The fifth major challenge they face is that women are often seen as having only the role of responsibility for the household and the home.

Zizipho Nyanga, CEO of Old Mutual SA's Masisizane Fund, emphasised that it is important for women entrepreneurs to get social returns and financial returns.

"It is difficult to be an entrepreneur. That is why there must be women entrepreneurs as believable mentors and role models. There are good stories out there. We need women who can show us it can be done," said Nyanga.

"We need legacy businesses to be left for our children. Let us pull the girl and the boy child up as Africa rises up."

Vanessa Moungar, director of gender, women and civil society at the African Development Bank (AfDB) in the Ivory Coast, added that governments must provide the right environment for women entrepreneurs.

"There is a huge financing gap that must be bridged in Africa regarding access to finance for women entrepreneurs," she said.

"We want to change the narrative around women's empowerment. We must work with governments to create a good regulatory framework. Women must organise themselves. Their journey as entrepreneurs is a long one and it is only just the beginning."

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