Social Entrepreneurship in South Africa

Social Entrepreneurship 1 Comment

What motivates a social entrepreneur?

According to a study released by GIBS, “Social Enterprises in South Africa: Discovering a vibrant sector”, social entrepreneurs fall into 1 of 3 categories. They either motivated by purpose, or profit or both.

Key characteristics

The key characteristic of a social enterprise is innovation. They think of innovative ways of delivering their product or service. This is because they believe that innovation will lead to a more effective and efficient outcome. This innovative approach means that social entrepreneurs are able to combat challenges in ways that government and traditional charities cannot.
In South Africa, what is desperately needed is a thriving Social Entrepreneurship sector to ensure that we are able to overcome the serious inequalities and developmental challenges that we face as an emerging market.

Is social entrepreneurship a male dominated environment?

An interesting finding in this study showed that most South African Social entrepreneurs tended to males between the ages of 25 and 44. This is a rather interesting statistic, as one would think that social entrepreneurship would appeal to the fairer sex. Women are perceived as more loving and more caring. Women often take on roles that stereotypically lean towards these characteristics, like that of a nurse, social worker or teacher. So why is it then that men are dominating this field?

Barriers faced by female entrepreneurs

Some of the reasons may be due to the numerous challenges that female entrepreneurs face. Firstly, women are only now learning the value of connection. Men have always been invariably good at being part of a “boys club”, they know the value of supporting each other in business.
Then, there is the age-old access to funding. This is particularly difficult for any entrepreneur, but often more so for a female entrepreneur. The likely reason behind this, people fund people who are similar to them. And typically, men are the funders and are therefore likely to fund their male counterparts.
Finally, there is fear. Fear of failure and fear of judgment. Females are not known risk takers, while men are. This could be one of the main reasons as to why there are more successful male led businesses. The other challenge that women face is judgment. Women are expected to be “stay-at home” and look after the children. Even in the workplace, they have to face judgments for trying to advance their careers. For focusing on work rather than family. Men never have to deal with these harsh judgments. It’s never frowned upon when a man makes a success of himself.   

What can be done?

In the South African environment, there is actually a lot that can be done to help not only nurture female entrepreneurs, but any entrepreneur. There is policy in place to help with the development of small to medium enterprises. The BEE framework and the intent of the codes to uplift and support SMME’s in achieving a financially and operationally sustainable entity.

The way forward

The key to addressing the inequalities of the past and ensuring the growth and development of our economy lies in the hands of entrepreneurs. And more so in the hands of social entrepreneurs. By designing and innovating with community in mind, they can create a for-profit business that will benefit the many.

In conclusion, government, private and public sector have to find ways in which to support these enterprises so that they can build an economically viable and meaningful business. Each and every one of us can take part in supporting small entrepreneurs!