According to the African Development Bank, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the financing gap for women is estimated at over $20 billion. Mjadu explains that this amount is made up by gender-specific challenges that women face, including lower access to quality business training and education, lesser funding opportunities for women-owned small businesses, and cultural beliefs discouraging women from participating in business.
Mjadu says that despite these limitations, there are many women doing extraordinarily well in business. Pointing to the Entrepreneur of the Year competition, she says that each year, the organisers aim to build on the entrepreneurial successes celebrated for the past 30 years by encouraging and rewarding women making waves in their communities through business.
Mjadu lists a few practical steps women can take to proactively close the finance gap for themselves and increase their access to growth opportunities:
- Invest in knowing your industry
“One of the general rules of thumb when it comes to entrepreneurship is to know more than what directly impacts your own business.” Mjadu says it is important for entrepreneurs to be aware of the economic macro- and micro-environments affecting their businesses, and also the political and legislative landscape in which they operate. She adds that for women especially, it is also key to know the points of exclusion of a particular industry. “You have to be aware of the general biases and stereotypes in your industry in order to disrupt them,” she says.
- Collaborate with other women
The old saying of “two heads are better than one” is a powerful mantra for women in business to remember. “A group of women-owned organisations standing together and calling for equal funding and business opportunities stands to make a bigger difference than any one organisation doing this work in the silo.” She adds that the work done by organisations and chambers such as the Businesswomen’s Association is therefore important in facilitating this collaboration and women entrepreneurs are advised to participate in similar organisations.
- Look for opportunities with like-minded funders
Mjadu says that there are many organisations that provide funding and are passionate about creating equal opportunities for all – some of which have funds specifically aimed at assisting female entrepreneurs. “It is important to find out about these financiers and align your business finance applications with their criteria.”
She adds that the 2018 edition of the Entrepreneur of the Year competition, which is open to all South African-based business- owners and closes on 31 May, is hoping to see the biggest number of female entrants since its launch in 1988.