Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has been commended for empowering female entrepreneurs and promoting the growth of women-owned businesses, facilitating their active participation in the mainstream economy.
Chairperson of the Women Alliance of Business Associations in Zimbabwe (WABAZ) Irene Mukarakate said Econet’s role in providing a platform for women to build capacity, achieve sustainable growth, access capital and markets, and ultimately realise long-term success was commendable.
“I would like to commend Econet for coming on board and for seeing the need for inclusive procurement policies that empower women.
“In recognition of what the women in business are doing, corporates must (emulate Econet) and build relationships with women-owned businesses, and women’s business organisations,” Mukarakate said last week, at unique “Meet-the-Buyer” breakfast meeting, jointly hosted by Econet and the Women-Owned Business Trust (WOBT).
She encouraged women to venture into business, highlighting its potential to enhance market availability, especially in times of global pandemics. She stressed that the growth of women’s businesses plays a crucial role in building resilience, citing the challenges faced by many women-owned businesses during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
“A holistic approach is necessary to scale women’s businesses; the finance markets, skills, and technology must all come into place. A multi-stakeholder approach is therefore imperative,” Mukarakate said.
In April last year Econet affirmed its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by entering into a Supplier Diversity and Inclusion (SDI) partnership agreement with the Women-Owned Business Trust (WOBT).
Since then, Econet has substantially increased its procurement expenditure on women-owned businesses, doubling it from 2.5% to over 5% ahead of its own target for the year, and demonstrating the company’s commitment to creating a more inclusive business environment.
WOBT chairperson and Securico Security founder Dr Divine Ndhlukula lauded Econet for providing a tailored programme to provide the necessary support for women entrepreneurs to help them succeed in today’s global market.
“We have an opportunity to work with one of Zimbabwe’s economic giants as their (procurement) spending is huge, with a commitment of 5% for year 1, 10% for year 2, and 15% in year 3. The (projected) figure runs into over US$30 million going into women’s business,” she said.
“What is the impact of this? Zimbabwe is empowered. Investing in women builds stronger nations – when females earn income, they reinvest 90% of their incomes in their families and communities, leading to faster local development of communities. However, we need to be cognisant of the need to ensure we supply quality goods and services to our customers,” Dr Ndhukula said.
The “Meet-the-Buyer” breakfast meeting, held in Harare, was attended by over 100 female entrepreneurs and women in business. It was also attended by the ambassadors of Canada and Japan.
Sharon Marufu, Econet’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, said the event, among other things, demonstrated how far Econet had come in supporting women’s participation in business since the blue chip company signed the supplier diversity and inclusion partnership agreement with the WOBT last year.
“As a business we believe in doing business sustainably. Empowering women-owned businesses by ensuring increased inclusion within our supply chain is of utmost importance to us as it allows us to play our part in creating economic equity for women and aligns with our drive to be socially responsible in our business activities,” Marufu said at the consummation of the SDI partnership agreement last year.
“The inclusion of women-owned businesses or suppliers provides us with the opportunity to widen and diversify our supply base thereby strengthening our supply chain. Through a more diverse network of suppliers we can reduce our costs and supply risks as well as increase our innovativeness through tapping into more diverse ideas and supplier capabilities,” she said.