South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rate in the world. While studies show that the future of employment and economic growth is dependent on SMMEs, particularly those based in township and rural dwelling where 90% of new jobs can be created, thousand innovative business fail to emerge with many forced to close shop due largely to lack of access to financing to keep businesses afloat.
Meanwhile, financing of SMMEs has been an issue for many years and has held back the ambitions of entrepreneurs, particularly black entrepreneurs in townships and rural areas, resulting in job losses, trapping millions in poverty and contributing to stark inequalities that persist more than two decades after the end of apartheid in 1994.
The speed with which the country is able to create jobs will in a large part be determined by the fortunes of SMMEs. The more tools and the more options they have at their disposal to support their financial situation and to achieve their goals, the better for the country in terms of job creation.
The financial sector remains untransformed and is not reflective of the country’s racial and gender demographics. While the country has one of the world’s most sophisticated financial-service industries, a significant gap, however, exists between the banked (those that have access to mainstream products) and the unbanked or underbanked (those shunned by traditional banking sector, are without banking products at depository institutions, are not fully participating in the financial mainstream, rely on fringe financial sector to service their needs, and are a boon to alternative financial services sector).
With women making up the majority of the South African population and thus SMMEs, it is clear that they are the ones largely excluded from mainstream banking. Not only are women excluded but also left vulnerable to exposure, exploitation and fraud by unscrupulous and unregulated financial service providers.
In order for the country to progress towards sustainable and inclusive economic growth; it needs a strong financial institution dedicated towards implementation of reforms in economic sectors that have the greatest potential to grow and create much-needed jobs; build an economy in which the majority of South Africans could have a meaningful stake and benefit from; open up markets for new emerging enterprises and thus reverse economic inequalities.
Recognising the above, YWBN has set its sight on launching YWBN Mutual Bank to meet the financing needs of SMMEs and the underbanked segment of society. YWBN’s is uniquely capable to fill the gap owing to its innate understanding of the people’s needs. Particularly, the YWBN Own the Bank Scheme is aimed at "democratizing bank ownership” by building a strong financial institution with diverse ownership that will be a catalyst for change in the financial sector.
The success of the YWBN Mutual Bank will not only be in terms of de-racializing the financial sector and turning it into one that reflects the country’s demographics and work for ALL South Africans, particularly black women, but also catalysing the township economy, boost SMME development to create tangible economic assets and trade activities to address distorted patterns of ownership, generate sustainable incomes and growth along inclusive equitable lines.
South Africa’s rising unemployment, coupled with lack of funding for township and rural based SMMEs is a blight on the country’s effort to progress towards sustainable and inclusive economy. By their nature, township and rural enterprises are diverse, with high rate of informality and provide a range of goods and services to meet the needs of township and rural communities and beyond. While they have a distinct and vital role to play in helping to create a vibrant socially inclusive, labour-absorbing and growing economy, the lack of formality also means that little is known about this segment, and as such, it is prone to be overlooked and disregarded when it comes to access to finance. Yet this ‘formal invisibility’ belies its true significance.
According to Statistics SA, South Africa’s GDP in 2015 was almost R4 trillion, with the informal sector accounting for 5.2% (R208 billion) and employed 2 641 000 individuals (17% of all employed) in 2016. Other estimates place it as high as 15% to 18% of GDP (R600 billion to R720 billion). Therefore, significant participation and meaningful inclusion of underserved people of the township and rural communities into mainstream economy through their own enterprises with access to finance, can be one of the key game changers to creating a vibrant socially inclusive, labour-absorbing and growing economy.
Nearly every South African has an unemployed relative or knows someone that is unemployed and looking for a job, making the Bank focus on SMMEs the right thing to do and a must to growing the economy and stemming unemployment. Thus, the coming into being of YWBN Mutual Bank will give investors the opportunity to help the country realise both.