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Uniting to empower women to achieve economic freedom, through Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

DSC01302-1Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Honourable Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize
During the Occasion of
The KZN Department of Agriculture Female Entrepreneur Awards at
Cedara Centenary Hall, Pietermaritzburg
11 August 2015

Theme: “Uniting to empower women to achieve economic freedom, through Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries”

Mr V.C Xaba Hon MEC Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
Councillor Yusuf Bhamjee Mayor Umgungundlovu
Ms L. Delgrande General Manager Rural Development & Coordination
Mama Sizakele Makhumalo-Zuma 1st Lady RSA
Dr S.F. Mkhize Head of Department
Ladies and Gentlemen




We thank the MEC of, who is pursuing the legacy of honouring entrepreneurs. The theme for these awards is: “Uniting to empower women to achieve economic freedom, through Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries”. Indeed this programme and the theme are consistent with the National Development Plan Vision 2030 which talks about creating a tenure security for communal farmers, especially women, investigating different forms of financing and vesting of private property rights to land reform beneficiaries that does not hamper beneficiaries with a high debt burden.


These awards are taking place during a period wherein as a country we are celebrating women’s month. We commemorate Women’s Month in August every year as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. The march was coordinated by the Federation of South African Women (Fedsaw) led by four women: Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams De Bruyn. These leaders delivered petitions to the then Prime Minister JG Strijdom’s office in the Union Buildings. Women throughout the country had put their names to these petitions indicating their anger and frustration at having their freedom of movement restricted by the hated official passes. This march was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom and society at large. After the march, women from all walks of life became equal partners in the struggle for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.


It is months like this that the significance of women’s contribution to the country’s freedom and economic freedom is highlighted. This year’s women’s month is aimed at celebrating women achievers and their participation in the economy under the theme: “Women United in Moving South Africa Forward”. These awards are perfecting harmony with the theme and objective of this year’s women’s month celebrations.


Commemoration of women’s month during a time wherein we are able to recount and reminisce on the significant strides which have been taken to fast-track women empowerment:

•    This is the 21st year of our freedom and democracy, which created a conducive environment for advancing the struggle of gender equality, women empowerment and human rights.

•    This year marks the 60th year since the adoption of the Women’s Charter, and provides an opportunity to celebrate all our gains and to step up our resolve for a truly non-sexist society.

•    As women we pay a tribute to the pioneers of the women’s movement in this country, dating back to 1913, when women like Charlotte Maxeke led the way in establishing the ANC Women’s League and encouraging women to engage in the struggle for freedom.  

•    We revive the spirit of Bertha Gxowa, Lillian Ngoyi, Albertinah Sisulu, Amina Cachalia, Ray Alexander and Helen Joseph, amongst others, to inspire women to take forward all issues that affect women directly in every community in our country.

It is therefore remains imperative for us as women in this country to look back at the strides taken by our predecessors, reassess our roles and responsibility in our societies then continue making our mark. This should be done in the context of the everyday challenges that we find ourselves faced with such as the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment which as affects us the most.


According to the Presidency, the 2015 Women’s Month will be used as a build-up towards the 60th Anniversary of the Women’s march and is aimed at:

•    educating the nation about the role women played in the emancipation of the continent

•    documenting the correct stories of heroines of South Africa

•    celebrating women who have made it in all spheres of life in the continent

•    honouring and celebrating the girls of 1976 and recognise the role played by young women in the liberation struggle

•    uniting South African women

•    celebrating the struggles of the women over the decades and a rejuvenation of our commitment to strive for a society that is truly non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and free of all forms of discrimination

•    remembering the history of Women's struggle in South Africa and to continue writing our history as it has to evolve.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) small and medium enterprises (SMEs), micro and local businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs are critical to ensuring economic growth in a sustainable and inclusive manner across developed and emerging economies alike, representing up to 60% of national GDP in some nations – and as much as 70% of jobs globally.


The National Development Plan (NDP) aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality in South Africa by 2030. The NDP recognizes that entrepreneurs are national assets, and should be encouraged and rewarded as much as possible. Developing national entrepreneurship will create more wealth, more jobs, more opportunities and more prosperity in our nation.

According to Statistics South Africa’s key findings for Gross Domestic Product 2014 third quarter estimates, the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry contributed 0,2 of a percentage point based on increases of 8,2 per cent and 2,2 per cent. The growth in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry was due to high production in field crops and animal products. The unadjusted real GDP at market prices increased by 1,4 per cent year-on-year and in this category, the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry increased by 8,9 per cent. Nominal GDP estimated at R963 billion for the third quarter of 2014 and the agriculture, forestry and fishing contracted by R14 billion to R22 billion.

According to Statistics South Africa, the bulk of the value added by the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry in South Africa stems from KwaZulu-Natal (26,2 per cent) and Western Cape (22,3 per cent). This even more reason to promote and nurture female agricultural entrepreneurs in this province.

Government Policies towards Inclusion in the ICT Sector

Since the beginning of the democratic government in South Africa government has been deliberately coming up with inclusive policies. The ICT Sector has been no exception to government’s continued effort to address issues of inclusion and transformation. One such policy is the South Africa Connect Policy.

South Africa’s Broadband Policy was published on 06 December 2013. South Africa Connect gives expression to South Africa’s vision in the National Development Plan. South Africa Connect outlines a number of activities to improve broadband in South Africa. The vision for broadband is that by 2020, 100% of South Africans will have access to broadband services at 2.5% or less of the population’s average monthly income. A four-pronged strategy, with both supply- and demand- side interventions will close the identified gaps between the current status of broadband in the country and the vision in the NDP. The four interventions are:

•    Digital readiness – laying the foundations for South Africa’s broadband future
•    Digital development – addressing needs and measuring sustainable roll-out
•    Digital future – roadmap for public and private investment in the next generation broadband networks
•    Digital opportunity – ensuring that South Africa harness the benefit of broadband based on skills, R&D, and innovation, entrepreneurship, and relevant content and applications

Programme director, I have been requested to talk about e-agribusiness. The information and Telecommunications Sector has been declared by government in the Industrial Policy Action Plan as a game changer. Broadband roll-out, which is one of the main activities in the sector features as one of the President’s nine-point plan to boost the economy. It is because of the utilities such as broadband which makes the sector cross-cutting and useful to all the other sector including the agricultural sector. Other points in the President’s nine-point plan includes:

•    Upping the agricultural value chain;

•    Unlocking the potential of SMMEs, cooperatives, townships and rural enterprises;


The most effective way of achieving these is by making use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). The use of ICTs is already a reality hence the prioritization of projects such as broadband roll-out. Like any other government in the developed countries our government has realised the usefulness of ICTs as an enabler in other sectors. The comparative advantage of big companies in agriculture and agro-processing is their use of ICTs as part of their trade methods and this should be the case for small scale farmers and subsistence farmers in order for them to become commercial farmers.


E-commerce (electronic commerce or EC) is the buying and selling of goods and services, or the transmitting of funds or data, over an electronic network, primarily the Internet. These business transactions occur either business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business. E-commerce is conducted using a variety of applications, such as email, fax, online catalogs and shopping carts, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), File Transfer Protocol, and Web services. The benefits of e-commerce include its around-the-clock availability, the speed of access, a wider selection of goods and services, accessibility, and international reach.

According to a report released by eCommerce in Africa in March 2015 “Africa is teeming with young people, and therein lies a huge opportunity for e-commerce”. The report further states that “e-commerce is now one of the key and arguably the leading enabler for growth within the consumer sector in Africa adding that E-commerce is set to dominate African retail markets over the next five years.”

According to a study conducted early 2015 in South Africa by global market research company Ipsos, on behalf of PayPal and FNB, has revealed a growing interest by South African internet users to shop online. The study reveals that 22 percent of South African internet users have said they have made purchases online, and 48 percent expect to do so in the future. According to the study, the key drivers that would encourage South African online shoppers to shop on line more often are lower product costs (88 percent of online shoppers say this would make them more likely to shop online), faster delivery (selected by 85 percent of online shoppers), flexible delivery options (selected by 82 percent online shoppers) and safer ways to pay (selected by 75 percent online shoppers).



The International Telecommunications Union’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) framework for e-agriculture requires that specific agriculture ICT strategies are implemented to make the agriculture and rural sectors fully seize the benefits of information technologies to improve food security.


The WSIS Plan of Action had called for measures to “Ensure the systematic dissemination of information using ICTs on agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and food, in order to provide ready access to comprehensive, up-to-date and detailed knowledge and information, particularly in rural areas” and that “public-private partnerships should seek to maximize the use of ICTs as an instrument to improve production (quantity and quality)”


In addition to this, in April 2012, the African Ministers of Agriculture, Science and Technology recommended "To take advantage of modern technologies such as biotechnology and ICT, including development of national ICT/M policies to encourage investments in knowledge management and targeted information & agricultural extension and advisory services delivery”. In a report produced by the International Telecommunication Union in 2010, it was observed that “Many e-government, e-business, e-learning and e-health strategies are in place. Other sectors are still lacking e-strategies. Governments need to ensure more coherence between their ICT and sectoral e-strategies.”

It is imperative that as a country we implement the same strategies as our peer countries especially on issues such as agriculture and rural development. In addition what is applicable for big multi-national companies should also be applicable to small community based businesses.

Challenges Facing Women Entrepreneurs

Since the dawn of our democracy, the country has placed emphasis on legislative reform that removed all forms of institutional discriminatory laws with a view of attaining a free non-racial, non-sexist, peaceful and democratic South Africa for all in accordance with our constitution. The number of women participating in politics has since increased, we now have women judges and magistrates; we have many more in senior management positions in the public service. In the private sector women are now able to work in sectors that were predominantly white and male dominated such as mining, construction and infrastructure development.
It is a well-known fact that women bear most of the brunt of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. To embellish these challenges women are still faced with other challenges which make it hard for them to progress from lower levels in for instance, their contribution to the agricultural sector.


Entrepreneurs have the following challenges:


1. Land issues


Progress in increasing access to land for women in South Africa depends substantially on the geographical, urban versus rural, and cultural context. Statistics South Africa (2014) found that the proportion of adult women who owned a traditional dwelling increased from 44,4 percent in 2002 to 59,1 percent in 2013. Subsequently, some studies have noted the improvement in political and traditional support on a national level for women’s access to land. Women’s access to land and property is central to women’s economic empowerment as land can serve as a base for food and income generation, collateral for credit, and a means of holding savings for the future. In 1995, South Africa’s commitment Platform for Action (BPFA) obligated the South African government to address women’s inequitable access to, and rights in, land.

Additionally, several pieces of legislation including the 1996 Green Paper on South African land reform, the 1996 Constitution, and the 1997 White Paper on South African Land Policy formed a framework to end discrimination in land Redistribution Programme, the Land Tenure Programme, and the Land Restitution Programme. Surprisingly, however, gender South Africa, but from the limited data available there are mixed results, which is highly contextualised by geography, urban people with only 9 percent of the recipients being women. Moreover, a study by Jacobs et al (2012) found that in KwaDube challenge to women owning land within South Africa, particularly in rural areas, lies in the dynamics of power relations and customary law, which tend to favour men.

We are grateful of the work that is currently underway which the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is currently pursuing with the private sector to implement an Agricultural Policy Action Plan. We believe that with this plan about one million hectares of under-utilised land will be put into full production over the next three years. APAP is the programmatic response to Priority 1, the revitalisation of the agriculture and the agro-processing value chain. It outlines a value chain approach in priority commodities, informed by the commodities with high-growth potential and high-labour absorption capacity identified in the National Development Plan.

2. Education for women

The report released by the Department of Women earlier this month recognises the improvement of access to quality education is one of the key challenges facing government and receives attention through the country’s National Development Plan. In the beginning of the democratic government in 1994, we inherited a fractured education system that had historically focused its resources on a small minority of learners. Consequently, immense gaps in infrastructure between institutions from different parts of the prior 1994 education system were inherited and remain in evidence today.

According to the second Millennium Development Goal, countries need to “achieve universal primary education”. This implies that all children of school-going age must achieve universal primary education by 2015, or must have at least completed primary education. According to Statistics South Africa, our country has achieved near universal primary education and has in effect achieved this goal. However, educational quality and female access to education are still of great concern.

In South Africa females account for an increasing share of enrolment as one progresses through the primary and secondary education system. In 2013, females are estimated to have accounted for 48.5 percent of enrolment in primary schools, rising to 51.9 percent in secondary schools. Should the female share of enrolment change as one progresses through the education system, this would indicate differences in the throughput rates for males and females.


3. Access to Finance

According to the report produced by the Department of Women in the Presidency, deficient financial inclusion within the developing world presents even more of a challenge for women who are typically constrained in accessing to credit to a greater extent than men. In some countries, the male-dominated world of banking is particularly hard for women to navigate. The residual of women who are able to obtain credit in the developing world may often be charged extremely high interests by microfinance firms. This can place women, especially those in poor populations, in an even more vulnerable position to become severely over-indebted if their income source is constrained. Thus, many restrictions and challenges faced by the poor in the developing world concerning access to finance are often even more acutely experienced by women.


Ongoing Development and Mentorship

Women do not often get the same amount of ongoing development and mentorship as entrepreneurs. Working together with the private sector this can be corrected.


Recommendations made by the Montpellier June 2014 Panel Report on: Small and Growing Entrepreneurship in African Agriculture are practical and can be applicable to our entrepreneurs here at home. Some of these recommendations included:

1. Farmers, rural communities, women and young people, must be better linked to markets to take advantage of the opportunities arising along the African agribusiness value chain. As the world’s “youngest” continent, markets must be stimulated to create more job opportunities within the agriculture value chain.These opportunities can be scaled-up by ensuring that credits, inputs and extension are available.
2. Donor agencies and African governments, in cooperation with the private sector, should establish programmes to support the development of rural and food sector enterprises (RFSEs). While urban and industrial enterprises are crucial to African growth, there is an equally important role for RFSEs.
3. Support research into the optimal configuration of agribusiness value chains. More research is needed to identify value chains that will deliver greater value, reduce risks and increase resilience for smallholders.
4. Strengthen higher education institutions for the agricultural sciences. Taught materials need to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship.
5. Harness and catalyse the entrepreneurial spirit and skills of young farmers and entrepreneurs by providing technical assistance, vocational and business management training, including guidance for joint endeavours and cooperation. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for management, decision-making, communication and leadership should also be central


I would like to conclude by what our former President, uTata Nelson Mandela said when delivering his first State of the Nation Address in 1994:

“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression… Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.”

These wise words are still relevant today, we still have today women in very rural areas struggling to make ends meet. Most of these women are sitting there with a huge potential for instance in agriculture but because they only sell their produce to the community or immediate family their full potential is not realized.


I thank you.