Headed up by Ms Nunu Ntshingila, Facebook Africa stands firmly behind the growth of small women-owned businesses, and has availed its space for robust marketing opportunities, as well as first-hand connectivity to customers. Ahead of the ITU Telecom World taking place in South Africa for the first time this week, we sit down with the tech giant to discuss ICT and the role of business in the development of economies and societies.
*Answers courtesy of Emilar Gandhi, Facebook Africa Public Policy Manager for SADC region.
Matalane Ngobeni: Since 1994, great strides have been made to ensure women enjoy the same rights as their male counterparts in relation to education, employment, property, inheritance and justice. More however still needs to be done to ensure the full participation of women in the economy. What are the initiatives that Facebook has undertaken to promote gender equality and women empowerment in the workspace?
Emilar Gandhi: Helping women to start and grow prosperous companies is a powerful way in which we can transform our society and create equal opportunities for all.
Tools & Trainings
We are always exploring ways that we can support women SMBs across Africa. This includes free training, which explores everything from building a business plan, through to using social media to market your products and services, as well as learning how to create engaging marketing campaigns etc. We have free business tools that are focused on helping to grow your business and have seen more than 80 million small businesses use Facebook to grow and create jobs. In South Africa for example, more than 57 million people from around the world are connected to a business in the country. This creates huge opportunity for Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) to export their locally produced products to the world.
We recently announced South Africa as one of the five countries in which we’re expanding Mentorship to Facebook Groups, making it easier for people who want help achieving their goals to connect with others in their community with the experience or expertise. Last year we piloted Mentorship, a product that connects people who may need support or advice, with the people who have the expertise or experience to help. We’re starting with selected groups focused on parenting, professional and personal development, with plans to expand to more categories in the coming months.
More than 200 million people on Facebook are members of groups they consider meaningful. They turn to groups to build and foster supportive communities around topics that matter most to them. Now, Mentorship makes it easier for people in groups to connect and build even stronger one-on-one relationships through a guided program.
Group administrators can now choose and create an online mentoring program, let members sign up and match mentor/mentee pairs.
Matalane Ngobeni: Women are underrepresented in the ICT space. What role can businesses and government play in bridging the digital gender divide? How do we remove barriers, change norms and attitudes to create a more encouraging and enabling environment for women in the technology sector?
Emilar Gandhi: To achieve full gender parity in Africa, countries need to address structural barriers that discriminate against women and girls in accessing education, employment and finance. In a study conducted by Development Economics on behalf of Facebook, it is estimated that businesses set up by women in South Africa over the next five years (by 2022), hold the key to unlocking over R175 billion a year for the economy, whilst creating 972,000 jobs.
We know that helping women to start and grow prosperous companies is a powerful way to transform our society and create equal opportunities for all.
Matalane Ngobeni: What are the current or ongoing initiatives supported by Facebook (in South Africa/Africa) to develop young people who have an interest in tech?
Emilar Gandhi: Facebook invests in partnerships and initiatives with communities across South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, including start-ups, SMBs, developers etc. to create opportunities and drive economic impact. Examples include:
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