Building capacity in the SMME sector

Business Skills for South Africa

Business skills for rural women

Rural businesswomen often face unique challenges their urban counterparts do not have to contend with – owing to not only a lack of business skills but also limited access to supporting service providers.

To develop entrepreneurship among these women, PwC has been running the Faranani Rural Women Training Initiative for the past seven years. BSSA has been contracted to offer the training, and women from four provinces – Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal – have been taught basic business skills in five-day workshops.

The programme focuses on practical marketing, practical pricing and costing, effective financial management and business planning. Learners are given two weeks to draw up business plans for their own businesses. In post-training workshops, they can discuss problems encountered in applying what they had learnt in the classroom, in their own businesses.

The main challenges raised by the women during the post-training workshops relate to the potential market for their products or services, issues around financial management, and problems encountered by cooperatives.

In the classroom sessions, learners are trained to conduct a market survey and a customer needs analysis. However, not many learners implement what they learnt, and the result is often an inability to determine the size of the market and their likely share of it. This leads to unrealistic income projections, which in turn results in inflated cash flow forecasts – all of which negatively affect an SMME’s chances of obtaining a loan from a financial institution.

Like many SMME owners, rural women often do not separate their personal financial matters from those of the business. They are also not sure how to cost and price their products or services, do not know how to determine break-even, and thus do not know whether they are running their business at a profit or loss.

A significant number of the rural women trained by BSSA in the Faranani programme belong to cooperatives. Almost all cooperative members report that they are often unsure of the roles and responsibilities of their organisation’s office bearers. Decision-making, especially about the financial aspects of the business run by the cooperative, is a major challenge, and often leads to conflict.

During the post-training workshops, the women are assisted by BSSA trainers to address these challenges. They also examine their business plans in group counselling sessions, and have the opportunity to learn from the experiences of their fellow programme participants.

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