A Cross-cultural Assessment of the Competency Needs of Women Operating in the Context of SMMEs in South Africa

BNO Irene

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Previous reports identified two types of entrepreneurs: opportunity entrepreneurs and necessity entrepreneurs. Opportunity entrepreneurs are those who discover or identify an opportunity or gap in the marketplace and embark on the entrepreneurial journey to fill that gap. By contrast, the necessity entrepreneurs embark on the journey out of a need to survive due to a lack of employment, have reached the peak of their careers (glass ceiling), or lack the necessary qualifications to work for other firms. Given that “necessity”, rather than “opportunity”, has been identified as the main reason why women venture into business ownership in South Africa, it can, therefore, be deduced that many women embark on the entrepreneurial journey ill-prepared, with little understanding of the intricacies of business operation and management and possessing few or no skills and
competencies. Researchers in the past have suggested that focusing on the internal factors, especially the “people issues”
facing the entrepreneurs (in this case females), may give the business a better chance of success. A “mixed-method” approach, conducted in two parts, was adopted for this study. The qualitative aspect utilised semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. The qualitative study was exploratory and the method of data collection was mostly based on communication by means of face-to-face interaction with participants. Personal interviews were conducted with female entrepreneurs over a period of five months, following which focus group discussions were conducted (with female entrepreneurs). It focused on exploring the link between entrepreneurial competencies and the business success of female owner and managed SMMEs in South Africa. Cross-cultural differences were explored and the arguments were examined inductively and deductively using thematic content analysis. Samples comprise 128 female entrepreneurs drawn from the four government identified races (Black Africans, White, Indian and Coloured). The qualitative findings from the current research revealed that female SMMEs entrepreneurs from the previously most disadvantaged groups in society under apartheid, (Black Africans and Coloured), made no comments indicative of possessing technical competencies. Nevertheless, in the quantitative findings, the technical competency had relatively high correlations with measures of business success, such as the black women entrepreneurs’ satisfaction with financial performance, where α = .34. Further, the regression analysis confirmed that the competencies studied in this current research do influence business success. This suggests that technical competencies are not only important for all SME’s but that in particular, the previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa may especially benefit from increased training (and if necessary from concomitant levels of physical technical resource allocation) in this area.” This study offers an insight into the factors that influence the business success of South African female SMMEs operators and their decision for new venture creation and its possible link to the strategies they adopt to grow and sustain their businesses. A practical contribution of this research was to specifically highlight some of the individual competency needs of the different groups in the South African society, and in particular to delineate some of the specific competency training needs (e.g. in technical competency training) of women that were most disadvantaged under apartheid.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalMediterranean Journal of Social Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017 Irene, B.N.O. This is an open access article licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License


  • Entrepreneurial competencies
  • business success
  • culture
  • SMMEs


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