Diamond miner De Beers and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) in South Africa have launched a capacity-building programme, which aims to support 500 women micro-entrepreneurs in the Blouberg and Musina communities, near De Beers’ Venetia diamond mine, in Limpopo.
The key objective of the programme is to equip women micro-entrepreneurs with business management and life skills to build their confidence and capacity to operate and grow successful small businesses.
The programme will provide training to enhance the entrepreneurs’ understanding of business concepts, which will comprise accessing markets, increasing market share, generating income, creating jobs and supporting effective decision-making, communication and negotiation skills.
The Blouberg and Musina municipalities have some of the highest unemployment levels in Limpopo, De Beers said on Tuesday, with young girls and women in these communities being disproportionately disadvantaged in accessing opportunities to improve their livelihoods and overcome poverty.
The programme, De Beers pointed out, has the potential to deliver tangible results that support the entire community through the increased economic empowerment of women micro-entrepreneurs.
De Beers Consolidated Mines deputy CEO Mpumi Zikalala, meanwhile, noted that, in each of the areas that have been selected, high levels of unemployment persist and formal job opportunities are limited.
“In this kind of context, micro-enterprises provide an opportunity for income generation to support households, as well as job creation that can benefit a community more broadly,” she said.
She added that the programme empowers women business owners. “We empower entire communities as women are more likely to reinvest a greater portion of their profits into the community and actively support the creation of jobs for others.”
However, Zikalala pointed out that women micro-entrepreneurs find it difficult to access conventional mechanisms to support business growth and highlights that this is where the programme will play a crucial role.
“We are very proud to announce this programme as we celebrate Women’s Month in South Africa, and to partner with UN Women in making it happen,” she said.
UN Women representative for the South Africa multi-country office Anne Shongwe said that while there are many programmes to support entrepreneurs, it is important to consider the unique challenges that women micro-entrepreneurs, in particular, face.
“Women micro-entrepreneurs do not always have the liberty to create boundaries between their personal and business needs or interests. They are often the engine that keeps their businesses running with immense responsibilities in their households”.
She further added that with the limited earnings from businesses, women raise families and make valuable contributions to their communities and country.
“These women need a hand up. This programme aims to build the business management skills through uniquely customised training and hand-holding that address the specific capacity challenges of micro-entrepreneurs,” Shongwe said.
Meanwhile, De Beers and UN Women are working with the municipalities and local stakeholders to finalise the preliminary phase of the programme.
The capacity-building model will use a “train the trainer” approach whereby local trainers will be trained by the De Beers and UN Women teams to offer ongoing support to the programme participants to implement the gained skills, build access to peer support, and gradually reduce support from the programme to ensure self-sustenance.
Sixteen local trainers have been identified, eight of whom are from the Blouberg and Musina municipalities.
The Training the Trainers workshops will be held in October, with the training of the first women micro-entrepreneurs to take place in November. The first group of micro-entrepreneurs to be trained will consist of 60 enterprises that include retail, catering, agriculture, spaza shops and manufacturing businesses.