Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs


The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor revealed that the typical South African entrepreneur is male and between the ages of 25 and 44. However, the number of women entrepreneurs is growing and they are starting businesses previously dominated by men.

In fact, The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) noted that 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises are currently owned by women. Government and private enterprises have put programmes and funds in place aimed at empowering the women of South Africa.

Starting a business is always a challenging objective, what makes it more challenging is trying to find funding to get your innovative idea of the ground.

Content in this guide

  1. The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
  2. Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF)
  3. Business Partners Women in Business Fund
  4. IDF Managers Funding
  5. Enablis Acceleration Fund
  6. The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
  7. Absa Women Empowerment Fund
  8. The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)
  9. Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)

Funds and Financial Assistance

Here are seven funds and financial assistance programmes as well as two resources for women entrepreneurs in South Africa.


The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)

women-entrepreneursThis government fund aims at accelerating women’s economic empowerment by supplying cost effective, user friendly and responsive finance. The IWF offers support services to improve the success of your business.

It targets businesses that are starting up, expanding, rehabilitating, franchising and those that need bridging finance. The aim of the fund is to create self-sustaining black- and female-owned businesses by offering primary financial and non-financial support.

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How to Apply for IWF Funding

Female-owned companies need to meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  1. Your business must be operational for 6 months.
  2. Your business requires early stage capital for expansions and growth.
  3. 50% plus one share owned and managed by women.
  4. Your business requires potential growth and commercial sustainability.
  5. Your business must improve social impact with employment creation.

Contact IWF for funding

  • Businesses that are eligible and need funding between R30 000 and R2 million can submit their application.
  • Apply to the IWF through the IDF website or call +27 (11) 772 7910.
  • Download application forms from

For more information on start-up funding visit this guide.



Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF)

women-businessThe Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF) was established by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to support access to entrepreneurial funds for women business owners. R400 million has been set aside for women-owned businesses.

“We need to increase the extent to which women own and manage existing and new enterprises by improving their access to economic resources and infrastructure,” says Meryl Mamathuba, Head of Development Funds Department at the IDC. “This strategy is necessary to create viable opportunities that facilitate sustainable development and empowerment.”

How to Apply for WEF Funding

Women-owned businesses must meet the following requirements to qualify for WEF funding:

  • Businesses must have at least 50% women shareholding.
  • Applications can be for start-ups, expansions or acquisitions.
  • You’ll need a solid, fundable business plan to start or expand within an identified market.
  • Your business plan will need to include financial plans detailing: capital expenditure, working capital requirements, resourcing and operational involvement.
  • You can also be a shareholder with a direct or indirect total net asset base of less than R15 million.

The following sectors are excluded from eligibility to the WEF:

  • Franchising
  • pure acquisitions
  • construction
  • import and export
  • retail
  • primary agriculture
  • property development and consulting services such as recruitment and engineering.

Contact WEF for funding

You can find out more information and access the application form from the IDC website:

For more information on IDC visit this article.



Business Partners Women in Business Fund

successful-womenThe Business Partners Limited Women in Business Fund is focused on assisting women entrepreneurs with starting, expanding or purchasing an existing business. The Women in Business Fund is aimed at helping women start their entrepreneurial journey on an even footing.

The fund aims to:

  • Increase access to finance for women entrepreneurs
  • Invest in viable women-owned businesses
  • Assist in the growth and expansion of women-owned businesses
  • Contribute towards an increase in the number of successful women entrepreneurs and inspire young females in choosing entrepreneurship as a career option.
  • Facilitate the creation of new jobs and decreasing unemployment and poverty among the citizens of South Africa.

Do You Qualify for Business Partners Women in Business Fund funding?

Women-owned companies need to meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  • Businesses with a minimum of 50% women shareholding.
  • Women entrepreneurs, who wish to start, expand or buy an existing business.
  • Women in operations and management roles in the business.

How to Apply for Business Partners Women in Business Fund funding?

To apply for financing from the Business Partners Women in Business Fund, you will need to submit your business plan to one of its Fund advisors. You can also send your business plan to or deliver it to any one of the fund’s offices located country-wide.

Contact Business Partners Women in Business Fund for funding

If you wish to contact Business Partners for further information you are also welcome to submit a finance enquiry online and one of their investment personnel will contact you.

Related: How to Write a Funding Proposal



IDF Managers Funding

IDF-Managers-Funding-logoThe Identity Development Fund is a leading organisation in developing innovative financial products with the added benefit of being integrated with non-financial support. IDF is focused on unlocking value in the entrepreneurial sector through fund management services for institutional and corporate investors.

This fund is divided into multiple sectors, including:

  • Management funds, which are targeted at entrepreneurial SME investment and development.
  • Advisory services on strategy and implementation of a new project, which is targeted at the development of entrepreneurs.

Financial support is structured on a case by case basis and non-financial support is tailored to the needs of businesses during the various stages of growth, as well as the needs of the entrepreneur.

Do You Qualify for IDF Managers Funding?

Your business needs to meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  • Black owned and managed (51% or more); or
  • Black women and managed businesses (51% or more); or
  • Black youth owned and managed (51% or more)

Investment criteria

IDF Managers are focusing on the following industries to help you diversify your portfolio:

  • Manufacturing
  • Wholesale and retail
  • Tourism
  • Agro-processing
  • Mining and infrastructure related services
  • Healthcare services
  • ICT
  • Construction
  • Transport and Logistics
  • Other productive sectors
  • Supply chain linked opportunities

Excluded industries

The following sectors are excluded from eligibility to the IDF Mangers Fund:

  • Speculative real estate
  • Non-commercial ventures (NPO)
  • Businesses deriving revenue from gambling, liquor, military or illegal activities
  • Businesses not socially responsible or adverse to the development of small businesses
  • Agencies
  • Primary farming
  • Replacement finance
  • Professional services

Contact IDF Mangers Fund for funding

To apply for capital, please visit and download the application form at the bottom of the page. Once the application form is completed you can email it to

Related: 10 Tips for Finding Seed Funding



Enablis Acceleration Fund

Enablis-Acceleration-Fund-logoThe Enablis Acceleration Fund is a partnership between Enablis Financial Corporation SA (Pty) Ltd and Khula Enterprise Finance Limited. It is currently capitalised at R50 million.

Its aim is to improve access to SME early stage funding, while reaching out and supporting SME’s that are developing in remote or rural areas with a view to creating new sustainable jobs that alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment.

This acceleration fund offers equity and debt instruments over loan periods no longer than 60 months.

Do You Qualify for Enablis Acceleration Funding?

Those eligible for this acceleration funding must meet the following criteria:

  • South African SMEs that are accredited by the Enablis Entrepreneurial Network.
  • Black and women entrepreneurs for start-ups and the expansion of a business.
  • SMEs involved in all sectors, specifically ICT, transport, tourism, agriculture and services industry.
  • SMEs that need working capital and or asset finance.

How to Apply for Enablis Acceleration Funding

To become a member and start on your journey with Enablis, visit the Join Enablis section at and fill out the application form. You will be contacted by the appropriate chapter manager.

Contact Enablis Acceleration Funding for funding

The contact details for the person in charge of enquires for South Africa are:

  • Name: Ebenise Bester
  • Contact: +27 21 422 0690 (CT)
  • E-mail:
  • Address: Suite 202 Sir Lowry Studios, 95 Sir Lowry Road, Cape Town, 8001

Related: Government Funding and Grants for Small Businesses



The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)

The-National-Empowerment-Fund-logoThe National Empowerment Fund is a government agency that is set up to provide capital for black economic empowerment transactions. Although this isn’t specifically a female-focused entrepreneur fund, it does cater for black women and aims to empower them to become part of the entrepreneur society.

The NEF is a driver and a thought-leader when it comes to promoting and facilitating black economic participation through the provision of financial and non-financial support to black empowered businesses, as well as by promoting a culture of savings and investment among black people.

Do You Qualify for The National Empowerment Funding?

The main investment areas for this fund are construction, information and communication technology and media, as well as food and agro-processing sectors. While these sectors will be favoured, it doesn’t mean other sectors are not eligible for funding.

This fund is also specifically targeted at BEE candidates and consequently will not be available to other candidates.

How to Apply for the National Empowerment Fund

Whether your business is a start-up or an existing business, every applicant must fill in an application form once you understand the NEF requirements and identify products that suit you. The application serves as a screening document. After this you’ll need to draw up a comprehensive business plan.

Contact the National Empowerment Fund (NEF)

For more information and insights into the fund:

Fore more information on NEF funding visit the guide here.



Absa Women Empowerment Fund

Absa-Women-Empowerment-Fund-logoAbsa has positioned itself to assist with the empowerment of females by introducing the Women Empowerment Fund. This loan offers a minimum of R50 000 to a maximum of R3 million with a maximum loan of five years and a monthly reducible overdraft.

The Women Empowerment Fund has been designed so that 70% of the loan is paid directly to suppliers and the interest rate is linked to the prime lending rate. The loan will also be structured according to the associated credit risk of the entrepreneur and their business.

If you’re a businesswoman with the skills and expertise to make a success of your business and your loan application has been turned down because you did not have enough security, then you may be eligible for finance though Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund, depending on your businesses’ capability to repay the loan.

Do You Qualify for Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund?

Those eligible for this acceleration funding must meet the following criteria:

  • You are a South African woman permanently residing in South Africa.
  • Your business is a Small to Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) as defined by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – including new start-ups, existing businesses, franchises and businesses switching from other banks, subject to Absa Credit approval.
  • You do not qualify for a traditional business loan under normal banking criteria due to poor credit records (must be justifiable).
  • The business’s major shareholder (more than 66%) is fully involved in the day-to-day operation of the business.
  • You have the skills and, or, expertise relevant to your business and the industry or sector.
  • You have a well-researched business plan.
  • Your business can show profitability through historical financials or a realistic cash flow forecast.
  • You operate in an approved industry (ask ABSA’s consultants about the sectors and industries that do not qualify).
  • You require repeat loans, but only once the initial loan has been repaid in full.
  • You need a loan of between R50 000 and R3 million with a maximum loan term of five years and monthly reducible overdrafts.
  • You can show evidence of a revenue stream, i.e. letters of intent. (Purchase orders)
  • The main business transactional account is held with Absa; no split banking is allowed.

The following conditions mean you will be unable to receive funding for ABSA’s Women Empowerment Fund:

  • Non-South African citizens
  • Money raising ventures
  • Enrichment
  • All trusts, public companies, section 21 companies
  • Commercial and Residential property finance

How to Apply for Absa’s Women Empowerment Fund

You will find more information and the application form on the website here.

To apply for funding complete the application form and bring it to your nearest Absa branch, along with the relevant supporting documentation listed on the last page of the application form.

Contact the Absa Women Empowerment Fund

For more information and enquiries into the fund contact ABSA on their support centre line: 0860 040 302.

For more information on ABSA Enterprise funding read this guide.


Resources and support

Government and successful women entrepreneurs have realised there is a gap in education for female entrepreneurs and have started to create support programmes where female entrepreneurs can find out exactly what they need to be successful within a specific sector or business. 


The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)

The-Special-Projects-and-Programmes-Unit-logoThe Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP) within the Programme Analysis and Development (PAD) of SEDA, has an arm that focuses on projects specifically for women.

The SPP is supporting women so that they are hindered less by negative prevailing socio-cultural attitudes, gender discrimination or bias and personal difficulties.

The Special Projects and Programmes Unit is a platform where women can educate themselves about all the various aspects of becoming an entrepreneur. This resource also provides women with information on additional funding sources.

Contact the Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)

For more information and enquiries into the programme:

Related: Support for Highflying Entrepreneurs from Specialised SEDA Programme



Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)

Women-in-Oil-and-Energy-South-Africa-logoThe WOESA Group of businesses is focused on facilitating and promoting business for, and enhancing, the participation of South African women in the oil and energy sector.

WOESA offers services to its member companies, organisations and individuals that focus on developing a knowledge base and building capacity amongst women through education and training.

The group facilitates access to business opportunities and conducts advocacy work for women, by assisting them in drafting legislation and policies. WOESA also aims to assist women with access to funding and investment.

WOESA provides specific services to enhance female participation in the oil and energy sector. These services include:

  • Organising workshops and conferences
  • Develop a knowledge base and make it accessible to its members
  • Training
  • Interface between members and business opportunities
  • Networking, lobbying and advocacy
  • Participation in drafting legislation and policies
  • Facilitation of access to finance/funding for business opportunities for women in the oil and energy sector
  • Developing and maintaining an interactive website with information for members only, containing news, legislation, articles, business opportunities, a calendar and more.
  • Recruitment of women in the oil and energy sector.

Contact Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)

For more information and enquiries into the programme:

Women are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the entrepreneurial world. To assist them in growing and reaching new markets, government and private business have created funds and resources designed for women. These funds and resources will help women entrepreneurs to become more successful by providing them with both financial and non-financial support.


Nicole Crampton
Nicole Crampton is an online writer for Entrepreneur Magazine. She has studied a BA Journalism at Monash South Africa. Nicole has also completed several courses in writing and online marketing.

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