More women register companies

More women register companies

Date: January 1, 1970
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It is Wednesday morning and the Companies and Intellectual Property Rights offices (CIPRO) in Pretoria are packed with over one hundred men and women aspiring to formalise their businesses into close corporations, companies or co-operatives.

The queues at the registration offices reflect an equal number of women and men, which is a radical change from the predominantly male queues that were the norm a few years ago. Another interesting observation is that over 90% of the entrepreneurs in the queues are Africans, spelling a change in the business climate known to be predominantly white males.
Patricia Manshon, CIPRO’s manager of business relations, marketing and communication confirms that there is an increase in the number of entrepreneurs registering their businesses. “It’s exciting to see all the women in the queues. The tide is certainly turning,” she says.
Asked which business sector they were operating in, some women said they were in areas previously dominated by males such as construction, transport, information and communication technology and mining. However, there are still a significant number of women registering businesses in areas such as catering, accommodation, retailing and childcare services.
For most entrepreneurs company registration is a very important stage in their business pursuit.  Getting tenders and sub-contracts from government or the private sector often requires one to have an established legal and formal entity. A few years ago, most entrepreneurs were legally registering their enterprises to take advantage of opportunities in black empowerment deals.
Opportunities created by Black Economic Empowerment, cashing-in on the forthcoming 2010 Soccer World Cup high levels of unemployment among women are just some of the factors driving the long queues.    
A specialist on Black BEE, Erik Ackroyd, says many companies are not scoring very well on the newly gazetted BEE score-card. He says there is likely to be more and more business registrations as the codes of good practice want to see equality in the business world.    
Because of an increase in business registrations the new offices of CIPRO are now bigger and a much safer environment than before.  The new company registration offices are in the Department of Trade and Industry’s new location known as the DTI campus. Various business related institutions such as the Small Enterprise Development Agency and Khula Enterprise are also in the same location.
Wawa Damane, Chief Executive Officer of the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), notes that, “the environment is more conducive than it was before.  The entrepreneurship culture is growing.” She says  SEDA has also experienced an increase in the number of women who are coming forward to enquire on how to start or grow their businesses.
Because of this, SEDA is planning collaborate with computer services company iBurst and the Industrial Development Corporation in a project to roll-out forty Internet Cafes across the country. 
Damane cites access to finance and issues around the regulatory framework as some of the challenges that still hamper small business development.
The move by the South African Revenue Services (SARS) to grant tax amnesty to struggling small enterprises has been hailed as a step in the right direction. It seems that the tax amnesty is encouraging many more entrepreneurs to consider formalising their operations. SARS hopes that all street traders and informal businesses in the country, mainly of whom are women, will now consider registering their enterprises.
Several men and women “street accountants” or on hnad to help entrepreneurs complete the registration documentation.  Raesibe Hlabano.  She says her company offers services including accounting and bookkeeping, income tax and Vat registrations, tax clearances and business plans.
“Most people who come here often do not know everything that is required for a successful company registration.  We are here to assist those entrepreneurs so that they avoid going back and forth because they do not have this or that document.  We try to provide them with the services necessary to register their businesses on the same day”, says Hlabano.
She cautions that business owners have to be very cautious who they get assistance from, especially at a critical stage that involves providing information. “You don’t want to give out your ID number and bank details to unknown people.  Anything can happen these days.  The next thing you know all your hard-earned savings are not in your bank account. You have to be sure of the person who is assisting you.”
Moses Mlangeni is a radio journalist with SABC. This article, produced during a GL “Business Unusual” training workshop, is part of a South Africa Women’s Day series by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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