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South African women fall behind in owning business

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While South Africa has made significant progress in creating equal access for women to financial services and tertiary education, the number of women business owners are still constrained.

While South Africa has made significant progress in creating equal access for women to financial services and tertiary education, the number of women business owners are constrained due to the lack of perceived business opportunities, funding, and motivation, according to findings from the inaugural Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE).

South Africa ranks 21st (64.4) on the Index, which tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalise on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments. The index uses three components made up of 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators to look at how 54 economies, representing 78.6 percent of the world’s female labour force, differ in terms of the level of Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors.

Despite a healthy MIWE score, women account for only 19.1 percent of business owners in South Africa (rank 44), indicating that women’s progress in entrepreneurship has been disappointingly low compared to its global counterparts. Uganda (34.8 percent) and Botswana (34.6 percent) rank first and second in the world for Women Business Owners, with other developing countries such as Russia, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam also in the top 10. New Zealand (third) and Australia (fifth) are the developed countries with highest rates of female business owners.

“South Africa’s resourceful women are one of its biggest assets, yet it is evident that South African women’s full potential and value as entrepreneurs and business owners are yet to be unleashed,” says Mark Elliott, Division President, Mastercard South Africa. “We must accelerate our efforts to dismantle the structural obstacles and biases that impede female entrepreneurship so that women can play an enlarged role in South Africa’s economic growth story.”

Looking at the Indices’ three components, South Africa has an average Women’s Advancement Outcome score of 52.7 (rank 27), indicating that women’s progress and degree of marginalization economically and professionally as business leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs and labour force participants is on par with its global counterparts.

Gender inequality towards women remains in the workplace, particularly in the areas of leadership, with three women business leaders for every 10 business leaders. This is mirrored by a low labour force participation rate, with only 46.3 percent of women compared to 60.6 percent for men in South Africa’s workforce, and a low rate of women’s entrepreneurial activity, with only seven percent of working age women in the labour force engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activities compared to 11.6 percent for men.

Mastercard’s research shows that women in South Africa excel in the Knowledge Assets & Financial Access Component (81.9, rank 3), which gauges women’s progress and degree of marginalisation as financial customers and academically in terms of tertiary education enrollment. Not only are they as well-educated as their male counterparts in tertiary education, they have good access to financial services, and Small Medium Enterprise (SME) support.

Despite this, women’s progress and growth in the business world has been severely undermined by a low perception of business opportunities, and poor self-confidence, which are further compounded by a high level of business discontinuance, effectively feeding the already high fear of failure.

“We observe that indicators such as SME support and financial inclusion are important in supporting women’s entrepreneurship in South Africa, but are not necessarily the drivers of women’s advancement as business owners.  An accelerated and concerted focus on improving business skills, funding and business opportunities while reducing deterrents such as crime will be key in pushing South African women’s progress in the business world,” says Elliott.

The Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions Component benchmarks how supportive entrepreneurial conditions are as enablers or constraints of women business ownership. Here, South Africa ranks 31st with a score of 62.7. While South Africa performs well for quality of governance and moderately for ease of doing business, it scores slightly lower for cultural perceptions of women entrepreneurs.

“While South Africa has made some solid progress in creating supportive conditions for women entrepreneurs, more must be done to ensure women fully harness these opportunities. It’s vital that the public and private sector work together with development organizations to support South African women in fulfilling their potential as business owners and innovators. When that happens, the whole of society will benefit,” says Elliott.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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