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Socioeconomic Conference for Women in Business off to good start


South Africa’s economic system at present functioned at a fraction of its potential, with a high number of women excluded from socioeconomic opportunities, Councillor Ruby Mathang, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development in the City of Johannesburg, said on Tuesday July 19.
MMC Mathang was speaking on the first day of the inaugural International Socioeconomic Conference for Women in Business underway in Johannesburg-Gauteng at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand.
The two-day conference – an entrepreneurial platform aimed at and focused on enhancing the role of women in Johannesburg and building a better economy – is being hosted by the City of Johannesburg in partnership with the national Department of Small Business Development and the Small Business Development Agency.  It was full house as hundreds of women from across Johannesburg met at the convention centre for the conference.  Opening the conference, MMC Mathang said the immense human capital that women presented needed to be unearthed and harnessed.
The MMC said in Johannesburg the entrepreneurial spirit among women was being nurtured through the City’s inclusive programmes, with more than 25 000 SMMEs having been supported and incubated over the past five years.
Budding women business owners were being empowered with training programmes such as export development and technical and administrative readiness. They also received market access opportunities through trade exhibitions and shows, he said.  “Our service offering to the entrepreneur and the SMME owner includes the regional rollout of sector-specific hubs, one-stop shops designed to support entrepreneurs and enhance collaborations to improve success,” MMC Mathang said.
The MMC said women in Johannesburg also benefited from a number of the City’s programmes, including Jozi@Work, Vulindlel’ eJozi and the Massive Open Online Varsity.
Discussion topics included procurement and trade for women in business, the role of women in tourism, financing industrialisation, raising capital, project financing and entrepreneurial development.
Tourism Deputy Minister Tokozile Xasa said tourism was a valuable contributor to the value chain and held invaluable opportunities for women.  “Tourism and the tourism market are the in thing for burgeoning businesses but some of the market is saturated. But we can grow and enhance tourism by being innovative, finding a niche and thinking out of the box,” she said.
During a discussion on procurement and trade, the City’s Director of Trade and Investment, Reginald Pholo, said its supply chain programme had to date resulted in under 100 SMMEs being signed on by Pick n Pay, Massmart, Tsogo Sun, Food Lovers Market and Bidvest.  More than 80 women-owned SMMEs used the platform to showcase their products and services.
One of the exhibitors, Lindiwe Xaba of Cherry Bags and Accessories, said she was excited about opportunities that arose from the conference.  “I’ve received several queries and made valuable contacts to further my business and take it to the next level, which is ultimately to be able to employ several other women,” said Xaba.