President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged delegates attending the second annual Women Economic Assembly Conference (WECONA) to produce outcomes that uplift, empower and expand women’s access to all levels of the economy.
Ramaphosa launched WECONA in 2021 to facilitate the participation of women-owned businesses in core areas of the economy. The event was attended by government leaders, businesswomen, private companies, donors, civil society and other stakeholders.
Almost 50% of women aged between 15 and 64 are economically inactive in the country. Half of the working age women are not part of the labour force compared to 36% of men. Black women specifically are employed in low skilled, low paid jobs. Poverty levels amongst black women remain high.
Ramaphosa has urged delegates attending WECONA to change this. He says the conference must find tangible action projects and opportunities that create jobs and empower women in South Africa.
“We cannot transform the racial patterns of ownership of the economy without changing the gender ownership patterns and controls, this is what the women’s economic assembly is all about, to change this. While we have made substantial progress since the broad based black economic empowerment act was passed two decades ago, we still have much more to do. A significant part of the work that lies ahead is to elevate the role and status of the women,” says Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa defended government’s policy to procure 40 % from women owned businesses. He says it was the right decision given that women carry the heaviest burden when it comes to economic transformation. He has urged the private sector to do the same.
“Without a target you cannot measure clear performance, and as we look at these targets we must also strengthen the entire eco system of support for women owned businesses. Our own country has far fewer women entrepreneurs than many other countries and that is something we should accept. But we do not accept and do nothing about it. As government we have trained nearly 6 000 women owned businesses in essential business skills to qualify in tender processes. So that when the tender moments come they are able to participate with confidence,” Ramaphosa explains.
President Ramaphosa says every effort should be made by women-led businesses to explore and take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area.
“Women-led businesses should get into the shelves of the many shops and markets on our continent. And through that we begin to unshackle ourselves. This is a future that is beckoning. And a future we must grasp. I think it would be useful to hold conferences, summits so that we fully prepare ourselves,” says Ramaphosa.
Since its launch last year, WECONA has hade transformational conversations with industry associates and representatives. They have created opportunities for women increase and their participation in businesses across various sectors of the economy.
These conversations have also led to the game changing initiatives in the financial industry and the inclusion of women in the automotive industries.
Building gender responsive value chains, goals in the end more commitments and pledges are made to include more women in business.
VIDEO: Face of poverty in SA is an African Woman: Ramaphosa