Accelerating Women-led Startups

A South African Perspective

Nov 2020

The question of if and how business support programmes – particularly accelerators and incubators – can play a role in entrepreneurial growth in South Africa is at top of mind for donors and government alike. And while there is some evidence that these programmes do have an impact on early-stage businesses, there is less clarity on how they can best serve the needs of often-overlooked women entrepreneurs. This brief provides a regional review of the intersection of gender and acceleration in South Africa, drawing on GALI’s global findings while highlighting primary analysis of entrepreneur data collected by Catalyst for Growth (C4G), a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) platform for programme monitoring, analytics, and reporting in South Africa.

Key Takeaways:

  • Youth-led ventures are more commonly ran by men. Fifty-one percent of male entrepreneurs in C4G's dataset are considered "youth" (ages 18-35), compared to only 40% of the women entrepreneurs.

  • Men are more likely to start businesses in high growth sectors. Women entrepreneurs are over-represented in the accommodation/food services and administration sectors, while men are more likely to run businesses in the financial/insurance, ICT, transport/storage, and construction sectors. Interestingly, there are few gender differences in the mining/quarrying and manufacturing sectors.

  • Women entrepreneurs are slightly more likely to have a post-graduate degree, but interviews with stakeholders suggest this does not improve how women-led ventures are evaluated by investors.

  • Men entrepreneurs are more likely to secure funding post-acceleration. Similar proportions of women and men applied for funding post-acceleration, but men were more likely to secure funding, particularly when looking at amounts above R250,000.

  • Women entrepreneurs are less satisfied with the mentorship component of acceleration. After attending acceleration programs, women and men were similarly likely to report negative experiences - though women were more likely to say the program did not deliver on promises and were less satisfied with the mentorship aspect (including the number of mentors, mentor experience, and mentor performance).

  • COVID-10 is adding to the burdens felt by women both economically and socially. Women have taken on more of the additional homecare responsibilities during the pandemic, and sectors dominated by women entrepreneurs have remained under lockdown for a longer period of time.

Read the full brief for more insights and a list of priority research questions to improve acceleration outcomes for women-led ventures in South Africa.