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Deputy Minister Mkhize speech at Women in Business Summit Gala Dinner

Speech Delivered by Hon. Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, MP

Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services on the occasion of Women in Business Summit Gala Dinner on 29th August 2014


Programme Director: Comrade Hon. Fatima Chohan, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs

Treasurer-General of the ANC, Comrade Dr Zweli Mkhize, 

President of the ANC Women’s League, Comrade Hon. Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education 

Comrade Hon. Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Human Settlements

Comrade Hon. Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development

Progressive Business Forum Convener, Mr. Daryl Swanepoel,

Distinguished Progressive Women in Business, 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 


As we are gathered here today we symbolize those women who stood united 60 years ago and drafted a Women's Charter. Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) was formed for the purpose of uniting women for a common course of removing all instruments of oppression, be it legal, administrative, religious, economic or social. 

We honour women who mobilised and organised other women to develop a Charter. Even after 60 years the charter is still relevant and it guides women’s struggles for gender equality and empowerment.

The memorization of Women’s struggles is happening in the milieu where men still dominate the economic transformation agenda given the entrenched patriarchal society. 

We are therefore called upon as women formations to strategically and systematically challenge these socially constructed stereotypes around our capability to transform the economy. 

We are the economic drivers in all forms; there is no economic growth that will occur without women. This government led by the ANC is deeply committed to this course; and as women we have to seize opportunities at our disposal to accelerate socio-economic transformation. 

All the funding institutions and developmental formations in the economy need to recognise women as not only consumers but decision-makers; thinkers; innovators; formulators and drivers of the economy in wealth creation as a matter of urgency. 

As women leaders, we have a moral obligation to ensure that these institutions transform in acknowledgement of the fact that women have rights to economic growth and to participate in changing this landscape.   

The vision then was clear that for women to pursue gender equality, they have to break down all the barriers like race, class, religious divide, educational boundaries, political ideological positions and cultural beliefs.  

Programme Director, 

I have been requested to talk about the "Economic Gains Of Women During The 20 Years Of Freedom". Indeed women have always been the backbone of our society and by implication, the backbone of our economy. 

Even in the past when men went to work at the mines for months women will be the ones ensuring that the fires are burning at home.

The 2013 mid-year population statistics released by Statistics South Africa reported that our population stood at 52,9 million and out of this approximately 51% (approximately 27,16 million) of the population is female. 

It is indeed reassuring and encouraging seeing women gathered here today discussing real issues pertaining to the economy. 

You can ask yourself what it means to be the majority of the population, what value we are adding to our economy, what vale is the economy adding to our lives as women.

GDP Growth Rate in South Africa averaged 3.16% during the period 1993 – 2014, reaching an all time high of 7.6% in the fourth quarter of 1994 and a record low of -6.3%  in the first quarter of 2009. 

However, the period 2008 to 2012 only recorded average growth just above 2%; to a large extend the effect of the global economic. Recently the GDP expanded an annualized 0.6% in the second quarter of 2014 over the previous quarter.

The South African Gini Coefficient sits at 0.62% which indicates the fact that we are still a highly unequal society. This high figure of the Gini Coefficient is perpetuated by the ongoing triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and increasing inequality.

Since the dawn of our democracy we have seen the South African economy undergo profound restructuring. Macroeconomic stabilisation has largely been achieved, providing a platform for accelerating the growth rate. Women were not excluded from all of this, we have enjoyed the benefits of this restructuring although not to the fullest as some of us are still being excluded.

The economy has become increasingly integrated into global markets and has become a successful exporter of manufactured goods and value-added services. We are now able to position ourselves as an advanced manufacturing economy. 

Despite the economic successes and a broad range of state policies, strategy and programme interventions aimed at overcoming economic disparities, entrenched inequalities continue to characterise the economy and act as a deterrent to growth, economic development, employment creation and poverty eradication. Vast racial and gender inequalities in the distribution of and access to wealth, income, skills and employment persist. As a consequence, our economy continues to perform below its full potential.

It is because of the patriarchic institutions and practices which existed for a long time in our society that even today we are still pushing for women inclusion. This went on for so long that it has even become part of our people's mindsets. It has always been government's moral and political determination to ensure that women are included in the mainstream economy through deliberate policies.

Challenges Facing Women in the Economy

The first democratic government faced the enormous challenge of having South Africa’s development based on cohesion, inclusion and opportunity. To respond to this government therefore launched the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) to rectify inequalities by giving economic opportunities to disadvantaged groups. In that sense, it was the first step towards inclusive growth. This was however abused by patriarchal tendencies of men who used women as fronts to benefit from the BEE legislation.

In the beginning of our democratic government women were faced with challenges relating to access. This challenge still persists even today. Women find themselves faced with challenges relating to access to finance, access to business opportunities and access to relevant markets. 

Women have also been discriminated against in the world of business. The society always believed that for a business idea to be viable and the business to be sustainable it had to always be done by a man. Over the years this stereotype has been bridged, there is now enough confidence gained in business women. 

Our flexibility in implementing government policies also holds back the progress of women in business. Our policies are still rigid in nature and as a result they hinder the participation women and in some instances they put already existing women owned businesses out of business.  

We are particularly concerned with the broadband based participation of women in the economy. The JSE commission report of 2012 reflects that only 09% of the total 100 companies list is owned by black people. We do not have statistics for women in this regard however the figures are generally not impressive for us. Government, working with Women have began to formalize formations in key sectors to ensure their participation especially in mining, construction, agriculture and forestry; science and technology, Information and communications technologies, sectors which were and still remain male dominated. 

Deliberate Government Action to Promote Women Participation

Government has continuously comes up with interventions aimed at ensuring the inclusion of women in the economy. These policy interventions include:

Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment

As an improvement of BEE, Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment was introduced.

A number of policy instruments were identified as the relevant tools to achieve Broad-Based Economic Empowerment objectives:

•Broad-Based Economic Empowerment Legislation

•Regulation through the balanced scorecard

•Restructuring of state-owned enterprises

•Preferential procurement by government

•Institutional support and a BEE Advisory Council

•Partnerships and Sector Charters

New Growth Path 

•The New Growth Path provides bold, imaginative and effective strategies to create the millions of new jobs South Africa needs. 

•It also lays out a dynamic vision for how we can collectively achieve a more developed, democratic, cohesive and equitable economy and society over the medium term, in the context of sustained growth. 

National Development Plan

•The NDP is the country's vision 2030 which offers a long-term perspective. 

•It defines a desired destination and identifies the role different sectors of society need to play in reaching that goal.

Industrial Policy Action Plan

•IPAP is the product of careful analysis of the latest trends in the global and regional industrial policy space and a result of the continuous search for optimal policy coherence within Government, between government departments and across a full range of stakeholders and social partners.

Industrial Development Zones

Women also have an opportunity to partner with multinationals in the already existing Industrial Development Zones (IDZs). IDZs have been and still are important vehicles used by developing countries to facilitate investment, create jobs and boost exports.

Priority Industries & Sectors

In line with the government’s New Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP), the following sectors will be considered a priority:

•Green industry

•Agricultural value chain

•Manufacturing activities

•Strategic high-impact projects

•Mining value chain

•Tourism and high- level services

•Media and motion pictures

•Knowledge economy

It is empirical that women should look for business opportunities in these sectors to be able to benefit from the funding opportunities which will be available.

Radical Economic Transformation

We have decided to take bold steps towards radical economic transformation. As a measure towards this, we aim to create hundred black industrialists in the next three years, who will participate in the productive sectors of the economy. These measures include reforms to the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA), customising incentive schemes offered by government and its agencies, launching a new financial support scheme suitable for black industrialists and the establishment of an advisory panel on black industrialists. 

Local Procurement and Preferential Procurement

Local procurement and increased domestic production will be at the centre of efforts to transform our economy and will be buoyed by a government undertaking to buy 75% of goods and services from South African producers.


One of the key economic priorities of government is industrialization. As women we should be thinking about ways in which we can make every household an industrial hub. We should align ourselves with the priorities of government in order to benefit our societies and also benefit from incentives offered by government. I believe that as women we are capable and we can come up with industrial ideas which can later graduate from being backyard operations into huge firms which will employ the majority of our unemployed society.

Ministry for Small Businesses

There is also a deliberate move by government to support small businesses and cooperatives which is more reason why women should be encouraged to participate in this business ventures. Government has also introduced a new ministry which will focus solely on the needs of small businesses. 

Employment Equity

Amongst these policies which give meaningful contribution to the lives of our women is the Employment Equity which is intended by and large to restore the dignity of black people and providing work opportunities to particularly women in our country. This policy is critically making an impact in addressing the gender discrimination perpetrated upon our women for over 300 years of colonial and apartheid rule.

An OECD statistics points to the fact that “Since the mid-90s female labour-force participation has seen a stark increase of about 38%, boosting the overall employment levels. Yet by international standards female labour force participation at 47% remains low and it is lower than for men averaging to a gap of 14%. 

This also demands for us to ensure improvements in women’s labour market outcomes. Women’s employment too often remains either within the traditional female occupations or within the domestic and farming sectors accounting for about 97 percent. They are often concentrated within positions which are low paying and which have high rates of turnover. 

Social Security Policies

Our social security policies are beginning to deliver good results. Our no fee school policy has contributed towards ensuring that over 98% of our children are at school learning. The improvement in high education performance is linked to our policies which also support our young people through the national funding scheme, NFSAS. All of these are positive contributions made by our government investing in the education portfolio. 

Information and Communications Technologies

In the Information Communications Technologies, the GDP figures released this week indicate that ICTs are one of the key sectors that is driving economic development in this country.  The sector is driven by the high demand for data services. This also means that the internet economy is growing faster given increasing penetration of the internet. We however encourage further investment in broadband and broadcasting infrastructure in order for the sector to meet the demand.

We are also creating the necessary capacity for government to use its state owned companies to provide online government services. Coordination of government across the board to join the bandwagon of modernizing service delivery including automation for the online services is our priority. 

There are opportunities which our women must exploit in this sector including in electronics manufacturing, in audio-visual content productions, as well as in telecommunications and Information Technology industries. 

For most women to succeed within this sector, in the face of the emergence of a digital economy requires new skills and thinking and leadership. Our investment in education particularly maths, science, engineering and technology is critical in improving the digital economic performance.  For our women to thrive in the long terms, they must also be supported in business development through funding for their business.

Programme Director, Distinguished colleagues, 

Transformation in the ICT sector requires bold steps and decisions to be taken. We have to critically determine how the resources such as radio frequency spectrum could be used to foster transformation business outlook in all sectors where it is used, such as aviation, broadcasting, telecommunications, maritime, and military technology industries. The allocation of spectrum resources must take into account our transformation agenda where we women can enter those industries. It requires that the regulatory authorities who are tasked with regulations and monitoring compliance ensure that the expectation of our black economic empowerment are met. This also includes the very ICASA, whom we have oversight responsibility over.  In the next few months, we will be appointing the ICT BEE Sector Council to ensure oversight and compliance functions are exercised.  

On 31 July 2014, the eve of Women’s month, the department supported the South African Communication Forum as they launched the Women in ICT Forum.  Amongst the aims of the department is the empowerment of women and particularly women managers in the ICT Industry by facilitating access to coaching and mentorship so that women not only control the reins at ICT Companies but also own ICT conglomerates.   

Our primary responsibility though is policy.  In this regard, the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has drafted a Gender and ICT Strategy to guide the implementation of Gender empowerment programmes within government, State Owned Companies, the private sector, relevant community based organizations and amongst South Africans at large.  The aim of the strategy is to increase the uptake and usage of ICTs amongst by women and young girls.  The implementation of the strategy by government, State Owned Companies and Industry should increase the participation and ownership of women business in this sector.

I propose to you as Business to start a network of Women Business where you as Business adopt women led Businesses and start-ups in order to mentor and build peer networks. In this way we might increase the number of women in business in the long term by creating an enabling platform for support and growing their businesses. 

Let me say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; thousands ideas have bloomed; and now what is left is for our women in our society to take that single step and grasp the economic opportunities that have been created. THIS IS ECONOMICALLY POSSIBLE!