EntreprenHER programme empowers women entrepreneurs in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa

Launched in 2017, the Accelerating Women-Owned Micro Enterprises programme in Southern Africa has equipped more than 2,400 women who own micro-enterprises in Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia with the skills they needed to improve their businesses. 

The programme—recently renamed EntreprenHER at the official launch of Phase III on 2 February 2024 in Botswana—engaged trainers in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa to lead workshops on small business management, particularly targeted at women in rural communities. The sessions focused to topics such as recordkeeping, marketing, pricing, stock control, and management, in coordination with the International Labour Organization’s Start and Improve Your Business training package.

EntreprenHER is built on the principle of “Leaving No One Behind”, by intentionally focusing on micro-enterprises owned by women entrepreneurs to ensure they create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their communities.

Participants of the Accelerating Women-Owned Micro Enterprises programme showcase their fashion products in Gaborone, Botswana. Photo: UN Women.
Participants of the Accelerating Women-Owned Micro Enterprises programme showcase their fashion products in Gaborone, Botswana. Photo: UN Women.

In South Africa, 1,022 women completed the trainings; 1,011 completed them in Namibia, and a further 426 did so in Botswana. In South Africa, the programme also established 12 Business Improvement Groups, where training participants can gather for networking and joint venture opportunities; 60 such groups have been launched in Namibia.

However, despite the programme’s successes, a lack of funding remains one of the biggest challenges for small businesses. The programme’s new phase, as EnterprenHER, will add to the training and mentoring to provide grants or zero-interest loans to participants, helping them invest in equipment, staff, premises, or other necessities.

“Women-owned micro-enterprises play a vital role in communities throughout Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa”, said Al Cook, CEO ad interim of the De Beers Group, which has supported the programme since its inception.

“They represent diverse businesses ranging from farming to fashion design”, he added. “But these businesses are often informal and can lack access to markets, finance, and skills to reach their full potential.”

From 2024 to 2026, EntreprenHER aims to coach 1,500 women entrepreneurs to take their small businesses to the next level. Building on the foundation of previous training, the programme will also develop their digital literacy skills, teach climate-smart agriculture techniques for those in the farming sector, and introduce women to platforms such as UN Women’s BuyFromWomen e-commerce service for greater access to markets. The programme will place special emphasis on supporting women in male-dominated sectors such as plumbing and construction.

“By bringing valuable business management skills to women startup entrepreneurs in townships and rural communities, EntreprenHER ensures that no woman is left behind”, said Aleta Miller, UN Women’s Representative for the South Africa Multi-Country Office.

Miller said the programme was a vital tool for achieving gender equality under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying, “If we are to achieve gender equality by 2030 as per the SDGs, women must be able to participate in the economy fully and meaningfully.”

In Botswana, the programme’s implementation is supported by the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Culture, while in Namibia it is implemented with the support of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication, and Social Welfare. In South Africa, the programme has been implemented through the support of the Blouberg and Musina Local Municipalities.

At an EntreprenHER event in February, Botswana’s First Lady, Her Excellency Neo Masisi, commended the programme, calling it “a gamechanger in enhancing women’s active participation in the economies of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.”

She added, “We read of [the programme’s] stories where dreams are realised, confidence created, inspiration is spread to others, hope restored, while unlocking the power of women.”