By Dr Wilfred April
THE purpose of this week’s column is to get you, as an entrepreneur, to think positively about the wonderful milieu in which you as Namibian women entrepreneurs will be operating, and how you as an entrepreneur must think and act.
Namibian women are currently living in an age of exceptional opportunities regardless of age, shape, size, heritage or personal circumstance. The game is wide open to you all. The key is that we are truly living in the age of the entrepreneur. Some women might be wondering at this stage that our economy is in a bad shape, but it really does not matter whether times are good or bad, opportunity always knocks at the door.
Even in times of high unemployment, the future is absolutely wonderful, if you look at it from an entrepreneurial viewpoint.
As we are setting the entrepreneurial stage for Namibian women in this column, it also does not matter how old you are. During the past two weeks I have met young women aspiring to become entrepreneurs. It is also important that Namibian women understand that colour or poverty does not matter in the entrepreneurial game. Believe me or not, nobody can blame their failure to thrive in life on anything at all, except if their own failure takes control of their own life and destiny.
Last week I mentioned a number of challenges that Namibian women are faced with when setting up enterprises, and this week I would also like to gloss over how they can overcome some of these challenges.
First, do not get too emotional and stay calm in all instances. You only get recognition if you work very hard, as men do sometimes.
Read the Black Empowerment (BE) charters and make your mark. After all, it is up to you to grab those opportunities provided in the BE charters.
I would strongly urge husbands, family, friends and the Namibian society at large to recognise and support women, because successful women can lead to economically viable societies.
If we look at developed nations such as the United States of America and Europe, current statistics show that more and more women have similar opportunities to become successful entrepreneurs and also a chance to advance in education by graduating with higher degrees.
For example, JK Rowling a struggling mother and the amazing writer of the Harry Potter books brought a generation of video gamers and TV addicts back to reading books to exercise their imagination. Her influence has certainly not only changed the mindsets of millions of young women around the world, but also drawn many adult women into her own world.
In developing nations such as Bangladesh and India the Noble Prize Winning Grameen Bank (2006) has shown empirically that women could be reliable credit takers and have lower default rates than men, which is why loans are predominantly given to women. Muhammad Yunus, co-winner of the Noble Peace Prize in 2006, noted that every single individual on earth has both the potential and the right to a decent life.
In addition, the aforementioned winners of the 2006 Noble Prize showed that even the poorest of the poor could work tirelessly to bring about their own development.
Micro-credit has proven to be an important liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against adverse social and economic conditions. It is also important to highlight at this point that empowering low-income earners results in better nutrition for our children, who will be the leaders of tomorrow.
In neighbouring South Africa in Durban, Thabeka Ndakane started a mega-million construction company named IGUMBI Investments to provide low-cost housing for communities who were living on the outskirts of Durban in shacks.
Her inspiration was to give back to her own people and show South Africa that women can make a success of their lives. By now all Namibian women have some key questions to answer - what can I do about my business idea? What skills are required to succeed as a woman entrepreneur? Where can I go for support? It is important for women to have basic bookkeeping, marketing, communication and networking skills to succeed in the business world. Women can approach the two institutions of higher learning for advice, and I also avail myself in my personal capacity for support at no cost.
There are a number of outstanding organisations such as the Namibian Business Innovation Centre, Small Business Guarantee Trust and the Development Bank of Namibia.
In terms of support to draw up business plans and basic skills women can also approach the firm SME Compete.
There are also a number of organisations dealing with issues pertaining to women in Namibia namely NANGOF, House of Women and Women at Work.
Namibian women, I want you to keep one thing in mind that in both worlds, the developing and developed world, we are talking of communities who are surviving on less than US$1 per day.
Situations across nations are oftentimes the same, and at times people feel rejected by the system.
Nobody seems to be very eager to rescue them. What you are going to do as a woman can follow the same way. You can start small today and reach out to many individuals as possible.
If you are able to help 10 people – why not? If you can design or develop a product with 10 people in Windhoek, that is as good as 10 people in Tses. You can certainly build your enterprise step by step.
You must be passionate and absolutely positive, never, never, never, ever let yourself be discouraged. Become an entrepreneurial woman.
You can be! You must be! Will you be? Remember it was Cummings who said: “It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”
Please take to the entrepreneurial stage now and live your dream.