SA women entrepreneurs hit Chicago

An extraordinary group of 30 South African women entrepreneurs who have launched businesses running the gamut from construction, aviation and security to fashion, telemedicine and commercial farming are in Chicago this week to inaugurate the US-South Africa Women’s Business Forum (USSAWBF).

Outstanding examples of the energy and creativity unleashed by South Africa’s vibrant young democracy and its commitment to gender equality, the entrepreneurs will be connecting with their counterparts in the Chicago region, and beyond, to share experiences and inspiration and build partnerships to the benefit of both countries.

Their stories are testament both to the drive and resourcefulness of South African women in overcoming historical challenges, and to the exciting opportunities South Africa, and the growing economies of the continent of which it is a part, offer not only major multinationals but businesses of all sizes.


Inspiring stories


This week, Chicagoans will have a chance to meet women like:


  • Anna Phosa, who has grown a tiny smallholding into a million-dollar pig farming operation supplying one of South Africa’s largest supermarket chains.
  • Christina Baloyi, who started out in a butcher’s shop and now owns a successful construction company with infrastructure projects throughout South Africa.
  • Sbongile Sambo, the dynamic young founder of Africa’s, possibly the world’s, only fully woman-owned aviation services company.
  • Nelly Shezi, who has built a successful chemicals company.
  • Bernice Mannya, who went from selling tupperware to owning an agri-processing venture that exports to Europe.
  • Soweto-born telemedicine pioneer Dr Moretlo Molefi.
  • Tebogo Mashego, who turned a struggling backyard mom-and-pop operation into a thriving steel and aluminium fabrication business.


They will also meet Lillian Masebenza, a visionary social entrepreneur whose Mhani Gingi program provides training, skills development and mentorship to help more South African woman lift themselves, their families and communities out of poverty through entrepreneurship.


High-level support

The businesswomen are accompanied by South Africa’s Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, Deputy Tourism Minister Tokozile Xasa, and the deputy director-general for trade and investment at South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Pumla Ncapayi.

The USSAWBF initiative is the brainchild of the South African consul-general in Chicago, Ambassador Nomvume Magaqa, and is being made possible with support from the DTI, Brand South Africa, and South African Tourism.

Partners on the US side include the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, the Women’s Business Development Centre, the Chicago chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Women’s Enterprise USA, the International Trade Association of Greater Chicago, and World Business Chicago.

Source: Brand South Africa

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