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Entrepreneurial development is a priority for South Africa. However, the country still faces many challenges in creating an environment for entrepreneurs to flourish. It is becoming increasingly essential for corporates to get involved and start investing in entrepreneurs for the country to develop and grow sustainably.

Women, in particular have become a focus for entrepreneurial growth. This is not only to support women’s economic goals, but also to also combat both inequality and poverty and acknowledge the fact that women are the life force of every community because they reinvest most of their earnings back into their communities.

For Coca-Cola, a healthy, growing economic environment in the communities where we operate is key to achieving business success. It is therefore in our interest to invest in local economies, use small enterprises to supply and distribute our products, develop entrepreneurship skills and ultimately create jobs for people at a local level.

We also recognize that our impact and accountability extends beyond our own immediate operations to include those of our value chain partners such as suppliers of raw materials, distributors and the retailers of our products.

As previously mentioned, we believe that women are the backbone of families and communities and are an emergent global force. International Women’s Day is a celebration of what women have already achieved, but also serves as a reminder that there is still much to do around women empowerment and equality.

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that investments in women’s economic empowerment positively impacts local economies, child survival, welfare and education. Women are estimated to perform over half of the world’s work, yet earn only 10% of the world’s income.

Women play a significant role in Coca-Cola’s value chain with up to 60% of small shops being owned or managed by women.

Retail development gives us the greatest opportunity to empower women entrepreneurs in this sector, by providing them with retail assets and installing enabling technology.

However, many small businesses fail. As a company, we have come to understand that this is because many entrepreneurs lack basic business skills and support structures. In 2010, the Coca-Cola Company launched a global initiative called 5by20, which seeks to empower five million women within our value chain by 2020.

5by20 aims to remove some of these barriers such as access to business skills training and access to peer networks that women entrepreneurs face in running a business.

Contributing to the growth of female business owners lies at the core of our resolve to empower women in order to raise their community’s living standards. We also do this because there is greater potential for growth in an economic environment where small and medium enterprises flourish and where disadvantaged individuals have opportunities to earn more.

Forging strategic partnerships is also crucial for the success of addressing critical development challenges. Coca-Cola works, where possible, in partnership with government, civil society and other businesses to find appropriate and realistic solutions to issues faced in many countries – we call this our Golden Triangle Approach.

The implementation of our partnership with UN Women is part of a broader partnership announced by The Coca-Cola Company and UN Women in 2011. The two organizations have pledged to reach more than 40,000 women in South Africa, Egypt and Brazil. As part of this partnership in South Africa, implementing partner Hand in Hand came on board in 2013 in order to facilitate on-the-ground training.

Our partnerships have enabled us to share skills, expertise and experience to reach our aligned strategic goals.  We continue to play an active role in seeing this partnership through. With the help of our bottling partners, we identify the women who participate in the training. UN Women focuses on programme planning, management and technical support, while Hand in Hand provides the physical support to participants. Through these golden triangle partnerships, we have reached over 22,000 participants to date with these skills and support training.

Business management skills like record keeping, inventory management, separation of business and personal income are also crucial for the success and growth of any business. Our 5by20 programme addresses the need for these skills by hosting workshops in various communities for women. In running and managing these workshops within communities and ensuring that the training is sustainable, we leverage on the significant experience of Hand in Hand. The initiative has proven to be a success and we can see this through tangible examples of women who have had business success following their training.

Key to the success of developing female entrepreneurs is post-training support and follow-up.

The most important part of our engagements with the women entrepreneurs is connecting the participants with their peers to ensure that they feel supported and understood.

One of our participants, Noko Makganyele, has been part of the 5by20-training programme and through her participation, has succeeded in growing her small business called Barolong African Food. As a single mother to five children, she relies on the income of her business, which sells hot meals and refreshments, serving the community of Diepsloot. Noko has seen the tangible results of the skills training she has received by the growth of her business. But more importantly, her self-confidence has grown and she is proud of her progress.

There are many more stories just like Noko’s. Since the initial inception of the 5by20 programme in 2010, Coca-Cola has empowered over 865,000 women globally. The programme has reached over 45,000 women in South Africa.

Businesses should also realise that the entrepreneurship journey can be a lonely one as many of these women are entrepreneurs out of necessity due to the lack of other career prospects.  Thus, it is advisable that such programmes look to incorporate peer support sessions and networking sessions where women can encourage each other, share their learnings and experience and build business relationships.

Through 5by20, Coca-Cola has the opportunity to transform the lives of many women and communities by using our core business model to grow and sustain small businesses. This has resulted in increased economic value and business capabilities for women, communities and our business systems as a whole. With the celebration of International Women’s Day, businesses should be reminded of the importance of investing in women to spearhead the sustainable growth of our country.

Source:Ogilvy PR

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