Empowering women to become South Africa's job creators

Lindiwe Mazibuko, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance
9 August 2012

This is an extract of the speech that was delivered by DA Parliamentary Leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko MP, today, at the DA’s National Women’s Day event in Katlehong.

This morning Mmusi and I met with women who have shown remarkable entrepreneurial spirit and courage. Faced with few economic opportunities and under difficult circumstances, they have started their own small businesses in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni. I cannot help but be impressed and humbled by these women's determination, flair and acumen. We pay tribute to their hard work and dedication, and we hope many more will be able to emulate their example.

Today’s visit forms part of the Jobs Campaign which the Democratic Alliance launched last month, along with our Plan for Growth and Jobs. Among other things, the Plan proposes measures that will cut red tape in order to create an economic environment in which entrepreneurs can thrive and create more jobs.

Let us, for a moment, consider the economic background against which the women here today have achieved growth in their businesses:

As we all know, it is not easy for entrepreneurs to make it in South Africa today.

The World Bank ranks South Africa 44th in the world for ‘ease of starting a business’- far behind other developing countries such as Mauritius (15), Egypt (21) and Chile (27). It typically takes 19 days and 5 procedures to start a business in South Africa. In New Zealand the same process would take only 1 day and 1 procedure.

This is why, as the analyst Clem Sunter points out, we must truly realise what it means when we say we need to create new jobs. If we need 5 million new jobs, we need to create the climate in which entrepreneurs are prepared to take risks and invest money to start one million new businesses.
Within this difficult context, women, historically, have been more likely to be unemployed than men. The answer to how to extend economic opportunities to women cannot be simply to take jobs from men or to pursue quotas. We need to make the opportunity pie bigger for everyone. 

One way the DA will do this is through Opportunity Vouchers. This scheme would particularly help women gain a foothold on the ladder of opportunity.

The DA Plan for Jobs and Growth outlines proposals to introduce an Opportunity Voucher scheme.

The voucher will provide funding to young adults who would like to start their own businesses, or further their education and skills development. The vouchers will be allocated according to requirements based on an assessment of the skills needed to boost economic growth.

They will be available to women and men who have completed matric, and will be designed to help pay for further education, and boost the small business sector.

The voucher would entitle a school-leaver to a partial subsidy of university or FET college fees; ‘seed capital’ to establish small or micro enterprises - subject to a well-crafted business plan; or a state guarantee to cover loans extended by commercial banks to establish small or micro enterprises, also subject to a credible business plan.

The other challenge we must take up is to match skills with the demand side of the economy.

The Growth and Jobs Plan would introduce a nation-wide Vocational Training and Apprenticeship Programme (V-TAP) that would be administered by the Department of Education (DoE), and implemented by the provincial education departments.

The programme will be run in collaboration between public and recognised private Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges on the one hand, and employers on the other. They will be open to learners who have completed Grade 9, and are aged 16 or older.

Key features of the programme will include access to a wide range of apprenticeship opportunities, from hairdressing to construction work and electrical engineering. We will also co-ordinate training that directly links professional development with classes at the FET College. Apprentices will be paid a living salary, negotiated with employers, and subsided with a stipend paid by the relevant education department.

This Women’s Day, as we remember the huge contribution women have made to this country’s past, we must now turn towards the future with fresh hope. The DA will work to help ensure that South Africa pursues rapid growth so that every woman, man and child can lead lives they value. Empowering small businesses - the job creators of our economy - is one of the most important places to start.