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The Competition Commission: Challenges women entrepreneurs face in South Africa

Written by Staff Writer

September 5, 2023

By Sinazo Mkoko

A light has been shed on the challenges that women entrepreneurs face in their pursuit of entering and effectively participating in markets. 

The Competition Commission, empowered by the Competition Act to, among other things, investigate, control, and evaluate restrictive business practices in order to achieve equity and efficiency in the country’s economy, has conducted a study highlighting the barriers women entrepreneurs face in South Africa.

The study titled “Promoting Effective Entry and Participation of Women Entrepreneurs in the South African Economy” extends the Commission’s efforts to enhance historically marginalised people’s meaningful participation in the country’s economy as required by the Competition Act of 1998 (as amended).

According to the Commission, the study features insights from surveyed women entrepreneurs and stakeholders, including the Businesswomen Organisation, the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Commission for Gender Equality, and the Department of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities.

The Commission identified five themes as key barriers affecting the entry, participation, and sustainability of women entrepreneurs. The themes include access to business knowledge, education, and training programmes; access to finance for new business start-ups or expansions; access to profitable markets; compliance requirements; bureaucracy and administration; and access to women networks.

“Lack of knowledge, education and training are considered to be barriers in starting-up and expanding a business, particularly in the formal sectors of the economy. 

“Research has shown that this is particularly true in sectors such as agriculture, where limited diversity in women’s skill set and training makes it difficult for them to adapt or move between or take advantage of opportunities in the different stages of the value chain within the sector.”

The Commission adds that similar concerns have also been identified in the construction sector, where the growth of women entrepreneurs is restrained by the right mix of knowledge, skills, and training required to build a strong foundation for a successful and sustainable business in the industry.

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On the positive side, the research shows that with the evolution of technology, more women entrepreneurs are investing in programmes aimed at enhancing their digital literacy skills so they can access educational resources and information through the internet, learn new skills, and acquire knowledge to advance their businesses.

On access to profitable markets, the study showed that women entrepreneurs mostly operate businesses” in low income-generating sectors” such as retail, customer services, and small-scale farming.

“This is largely due to the fact that women entrepreneurs do not have access to productive resources such as land, labour, and financial capital that are necessary for business expansion,” the report noted.

On another positive note, the role of women’s networking structures was also highlighted as a key ingredient in empowering women entrepreneurs.

“These networks facilitate the dissemination of crucial information, provide access to valuable resources, connect entrepreneurs with potential customers, and offer mentorship opportunities from more experienced counterparts.”

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