Women make up 52% of the population, but only 6,2% of them are in entrepreneurship, and only 4% of JSE-listed companies have female CEOs, explained Anton Roelofse, regional GM of Business Partners.

“We want to make female entrepreneurship huge in South Africa,” he said. “Currently, we are financing 45% of female businesses. We are not happy with this and we want to see this figure growing substantially.”

Valme Stewart, owner of Swift Micro Laboratories, shared her story about how Business Partners helped her.

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“Since (receiving) their help, we have grown our revenue. And this enabled us to empower our staff, of whom the majority are female and microbiologists,” she said.

“I am proud to say that we now have women who are the first in their families to obtain degrees. We have also started a bursary fund for the children of our staff. And we are currently spending R2 million a year on training for our staff,” she said.

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Business Partners MD Nazeem Martin said they aim to increase access to finance for female entrepreneurs.

“The fund seeks to afford South African women a fair and equal opportunity to start, expand or purchase an existing business. The fund will offer finance between the value of R500 000 and R50 million per investment over a five-year financing period.

All female-owned businesses (at least 50%) that are commercially viable and where the owners are active in the business will be considered for financing, he said.