The inaugural Women Entrepreneurship Day (WED) Botswana commemoration held this week has affirmed that more can be done to unleash women’s full potential to contribute in the socio-economic fabric of the country.
Roche Mamabolo, Founder of an entrepreneurship academy in South Africa called LORA, Centre for Innovation and Entreprenuership Academy told WED participants on Wednesday that if the status quo is left uninterupted, there will be no positive change.
According to Mamabolo who is also TEDxGaborone co-curator, there is need to continuosly create revolutionary entrepeneurs who are ready to levarage on innovation to come up with sustainable solutions to current problems, while at the same time creating the much-needed employment.
Although the role of women entrepreneurs is recognised, there are still cultural and legal barriers that prevent women entrepreneurs to turn into global businesswomen. Mamabole is quick to state that the biggest problem is not lack of money, as is always assumed, and adds that money cannot always be thrown into problems with the hope that they will be solved.
“How do we create more women business leaders and entrepreneurs,” he quizzes. With a wealth of experience in entrepreneurship and startups, his opinion is that there are two types of innovations that people must be aware of. “Between sustaining innovations and disruptive innovations, entrepreneurs need to be able to align themselves with what will yield more positive results,” Mamabolo said, adding that contrary to popular belief, innovation is not limited to technology only.
Sustaining innovation according to Mamabolo, who is also founder and director of Radipolelo Entrepeneruship Consulting, is focussed on sustaining current solutions by merely improving on them. In addition, this type of innovation does not create new markets, hence limited growth.
On the other hand, disruptive innovation is based on creating new markets, coming up with simplier and more convinient and affordable products and services. “It is good to put money into sustaining innovation, however this will not give you the maximum impact that is desired,” Mamabolo said.
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percent of female enterpreneurs in the world, but only a few of these women-owned businesses reach national or global stage.
Their rate of failure is also high at 8.4 percent. The failure is attributed to several key constraints including; lack of education, cultural mindset, legal barriers and lack of access to markets, capital and networks.
Head of UN Women, Magdeline Madibela, whose responsibility is to come up with concrete programmes that address gender inequality and women empowerment among others, said her oganisation advocates for women who are marginalised, have limited opportunities economically, politically and otherwise.
The office that was set up in June 2016 also prioritises strengthening women participation in leadership whether in government or the private sector. Madibela’s office is also pre-occupied with development strategies on how to develop women’s lifeskills so that they are able to actively participate in socio-economic activities.
“We are currently developing businesses for women especially in rural areas of Botswana,” she said, adding that in partnership with DeBeers they have been working with women in villages and settlements around mining towns of Jwaneng and Orapa, as well as in the Kweneng area.
UN Women also works closely with the Gender Affairs department and other stakeholders to effect transformative programmes that are able to sustain the lives of women in rural Botswana. As a coordinating agency, UN Women that is housed in UN House works closely with strategic partners to train women on among others; business enterprise development, capacity building and knowledge management.
Agang Ditlhogo of the Clicking Generation, an ICT Academy for children shared her experiences as an entrepreneur in Botswana. She noted that in addition to working hard, women need to have a willingness to bring results despite the odds. Secondly, she believes that packaging one’s self is critical. “Know that you are a brand, and ensure that you are visible and relevant, and be intentional about it,” Ditlhogo said.
Thirdly, she says that soft skills are essential in business. “I had to train myself to speak well, and present myself the way I wanted to be perceived in business,” she added. Lastly, Ditlhogo advised other women entrepreneurs to find mentors that they can always bounce their ideas on and seek advice.
WED mission is to empower the four billion women across the globe to be catalysts of change, and uplift the 250 million girls living in poverty globally.