I am one of those women who grew up looking up to Khanyi Dhlomo. I’ve been following her since her days at SABC. I still find her to be a great inspiration to me and many other women out there.
It’s been a while since Khanyi has made it. Maybe it is possible that she’s reached that point in life where she can look back and laugh at all obstacles she never thought she overcome in life.
I respect and admire her business acumen as a woman. I applaud her for taking time to do live chats with many of her admirers through Destiny Magazine connect online. With all her achievements she has held onto her humility and warmth which comes through even in her voice.
This week I listened to her radio interview on 702 with John Robbie following the granting of millions for her Luminance luxury store. Many people are very unhappy for different reasons about the funding of this project by the National Empowerment Fund. In her interview Khanyi said she was disappointed at the uproar this has caused. Like I said before, it’s been a while since she’s made it. Her realities are very different from many South African entrepreneurs.
I am an entrepreneur myself having founded and running Rain Queen House full-time now. I am very far from Khanyi’s league but we have our passion, drive and determination in common, along with many outstanding women entrepreneurs I interact with on a daily basis. Just like Khanyi many of these women have track records that speak on their behalf and achieved big things all on their own. Although they tick many boxes correct and meet financial assistance criteria, they struggle to get even a R1 from the NEF.
Khanyi hasn’t done anything irregular. She was granted what she asked from a business financing agency and she qualifies. The issue here seems to be the fact that she was granted the entire budget of this agency and selectively. She might be disappointed at the way the public has received this news but I am not expecting her to understand that she is a victim of selective funding by government agencies. The issue is how the NEF approaches the issue of who it chooses to grand funding. Hopefully this will be explained when it is dealt with by Parliament.
The selective funding perception was not created overnight by the NEF’s decision. Seemingly the NYDA, SEDA and local government SMMEs funding agencies have been doing it for years. Last month the NYDA was criticized for spending nearly R20 million to buy equipment for a company belonging to famous DJs. Recently Reserve Bank Governor, Gill Marcus, was reported to have begged firms to employ young people. Youth unemployment is this country is at an unacceptable level at 50%. It would be great to have one government minister advocating for SMMEs and youth entrepreneurial initiatives. Future employment depends on the survival of small enterprises and creation of entrepreneurship.
The name of Khanyi Dlhomo is a power brand. The scales were largely tipped in her favour as soon as her name was put forward on the application for this fund. Perhaps after this experience she can workshop with women entrepreneurs on how one successfully bids for business funding. Maybe this will dispel the notion many of us have of South African business funding. Exhausting business funding agencies’ budgets on those who have already established themselves only create jobs for very few people. We need commitment from government to start investing in potential and focus on empowering promising entrepreneurs.