Business Loans for Women in South Africa

We live in a new world where more women are starting their businesses, thriving to make a living, and build a legacy.

Social norms have made it difficult for most women to become entrepreneurs, even worse, they have limited access to financial aid compared to their male counterparts.

Nonetheless, there are great financial institutions (government and private enterprises) that consider women as “imbokoda” – offering them business loans to help build innovative and impactful businesses or assist in growing and making their business better. In this article, I will be listing 5 financial institutions/funders that if you are a woman and require business financial help you can look into for funding.

1. National Women Empowerment Fund

Founded by the National Empowerment Fund Act (Act No. 105 of 1998) The Women Empowerment Fund is aimed at providing funding for businesses owned by black women.

They offer funding to various sectors, start-ups, expansions, and equity acquisition purposes and the amount for funding starts from R250 000 to R75 million. For you to qualify, you will have to comply with their laws and regulations, and they do proper checks to see if your business model will be able to repay WEF.

The amount you can receive will have to commensurate with the risk taken and the instrument used. Their Fund a Woman brochure is available for download for you to read more and have a clear understanding of how their funding works.

2. Absa Women Empowerment Finance

Absa also offers business funding for women, their program is called Women Empowerment Finance of which is suited for new and existing women-owned businesses. You do qualify for a loan of up to R5 million if your business has a revenue stream and positive cashflow but lacks deposit, collateral or security. It has a repayment term of up to 10 years and it will be you choice as the borrower to decide if you would like to pay the loan monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or on an annual basis. Their minimum qualifying criteria is as follows:

  • You must be a South African citizen and the business must be registered in South Africa. 
  • As an applicant you must be equipped with the industry skills and expertise.
  • Must have a tangible business plan.
  • The business must be conducted for profit and there must be evidence for future revenue and ability to repay the loan. 
  • You must have a business account with Absa, if not, you will have to move to Absa’s business transactional account.

3. Isivande Women's Fund

Isivande Women’s Fund can be accessed through the Government Investment Incentive website. It was exclusively established for women by the Department of Trade and Industry. It is aimed at providing affordable financial assistance to enterprises, overall accelerate the economic empowerment of women. They have customised loans that range from R30 000 to R2 million. The fund supports both start-ups and expansions.

4. ShEquity 

ShEquity provides financial assistance to African female entrepreneurs and innovators. It helps female entrepreneurs to unleash their full potential by offering the financial resources and operational support required by the business. Their main focus is on the following sectors: healthcare, hospitality and service industry, digitalisation/fintech, water, renewable energy, and agriculture.

5. African Women’s Development Fund

Founded in 2000, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) is a Pan-African grant that offers financial support to independent women’s organisations all over the continent. Since its inception, it has managed to offer grants of US$59 million to over 1,300 women’s organisations in 47 countries in Africa and the Middle East. Their grant funding ranges from USD$8000 to USD$100,000.

According to SME South Africa, 47% of South African small businesses are owned by women, this shows that there is hope for other women to join entrepreneurship as the future is bright for females. So, if you are a woman, stuck with a business idea but not sure where to start due to lack of funding, well there is no reason for you to hold back anymore. Get the ball rolling and do enquire with various funders and see how they can be of assistance to you in building a successful business.