On 29 October 2019, Zuva Financial Services partnered with the Businesswomen’s Association to host a dialogue with President Cyril Ramaphosa with the theme “The Economy is a Woman”. This was an in-depth one-on-one engagement with the President to explore his commitment to women empowerment, specifically the full and equal participation of women in the economy. Furthermore, it was intended to clarify what plans he and the government have in order to ensure that women are a key part of the country’s solutions.
These are some of the key messages that emerged from the conversation.
Opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA)
Ramaphosa urged women to take up opportunities offered by the ACFTA. In this regard, he stressed the need for more women-led businesses in manufacturing, noting that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement is opening up a lot of opportunities across Africa. He encouraged women to participate in business forums related to this agreement, and trade their goods and services.
Intention to discriminate in favour of women
The president said this would take the form of government committing to support more women to through business incubation. He went on to indicate that the budgeting process would also change to accommodate and encourage women.
“We have taken a decision that the budgeting process in our government is going to be gender-sensitive. We are going to ensure that when we do budgets, they focus on the gender aspect of how we empower women,” the President said.
Women must speak out on non-business-related issues such as gender-based violence
The President implored women not to restrict their voices in respect to anything, including gender-based-violence. Several times during the dialogue, participants noted that “South Africa is at war against its women” which struck an eerie and chilling chord. In response, the President urged women: “Never keep quiet. Speak out about everything, be it gender-based violence or lack of transformation. Continue agitating for the attainment of a non-racist and non-sexist South Africa. Mobilise for the cause of women,”.
He went on to further commit that more resources and financial assistance would be allocated towards non-profit organisations that assisted against gender-based violence.
“We must ensure that women do not live in a country that has declared war on them,” he said, echoing what had been said already by other participants.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donates $1 billion towards women empowerment
President Cyril Ramaphosa further pointed out that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had committed to spending a part of their $1 billion dollars for women empowerment in Africa as he readied to become African Union chairperson. He promised to work with France President Emmanuel Macron, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as African presidents to ensure that a good portion of the funding comes to the continent. That said, he emphasised that the input from the women at the dialogue would form his plan for how the funding should be spent on economic empowerment of women in South Africa and the continent.