- President Cyril Ramaphosa said women were virtually absent as owners in key industries such as steel, energy, mining and agriculture.
- He said women suffered higher exposure to the throes of South Africa's unemployment crisis.
- Ramaphosa said the exclusion of women and woman-owned businesses from economic opportunities needed to be combatted on all fronts.
President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed little satisfaction with the degree to which government was supporting woman-owned businesses through state procurement and said this needed to be ramped up significantly.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the inaugural Women's Economic Assembly organised by the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities on Wednesday afternoon.
The event was held to discuss economic affairs where it relates to gender equity and the representation of women in key sectors, business ownership as well as the distribution of wealth.
Ramaphosa said the urgency for the economic empowerment of women was heightened by the spectre of gender-based violence, as abusers often leveraged the economic exclusion of their victims to continue controlling them.
"That is why a significant portion of the R21 billion that national government departments have allocated to implementing the National Strategic Plan over the next few years is dedicated to economic empowerment programmes," he said.
Ramaphosa said on top of being underrepresented in key sectors and industries in the South African economy, women were virtually absent as owners in key industries such as steel, energy, mining and agriculture.
"The unemployment rate among women is nearly 37%, compared to 32% among men. In 2018, women's median monthly earnings were 76% of those of men," said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said Cabinet departments had been working on a comprehensive plan to get the portion of government and state-owned company procurement up dramatically.
"The Presidency - working with departments such as the Department of Women, Social Development, Small Business, Rural Development and Land Reform, and the National Treasury - has mapped out a strategy to achieve 40% preferential procurement in the public sector.
"Current public procurement accounts for 9% of GDP, which is about R500 billion annually. Of this amount, 12% went to women-owned enterprises in the first and second quarter of 2021," Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said the exclusion of women and woman-owned businesses from economic opportunities needed to be combatted on all fronts, from procurement, to business support and funding.
"Government, working together with industry, has started building the capability of women-owned businesses to submit proposals to provide goods and services in the public and private sectors.
"Around 1 300 women in the Eastern Cape, Free State and Limpopo have so far been supported to do business with the government through this extensive capacity-building programme," said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said the government needed to "fire on all cylinders" to accelerate gender transformation, wage equity and woman empowerment in the South African economy.
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