On February 22nd, 2019, over 200 women business owners, corporate representatives, and delegates from the US Embassy and South African government convened together to celebrate female entrepreneurship and the opportunities for collaboration to drive business growth with WEConnect International. The event was the 4th WEConnect International in South Africa Annual Conference, hosted by EY, in Sandton, Johannesburg.
WEConnect International corporate members EY, ExxonMobil, Absa, Ingersoll Rand, Johnson & Johnson, Accenture, IBM, P&G, Cummins, Dell, and Coca Cola were present to showcase their support and passion for gender-inclusive sourcing. In addition to the corporate sponsorship that helped make the event possible, many women suppliers in the network were featured throughout the conference. One WEConnect International Certified Women’s Business Enterprise, Liyema Consulting, went a step further to join as an event sponsor, showcasing the ability to truly take their interaction in the WEConnect International network full-circle.
The program was expertly moderated by Iman Rappetti, a well-known South African journalist and public speaker who brought humor and passion to the day’s agenda. Chief Operating Officer Val Davies of corporate host EY provided the event’s welcome remarks and WEConnect International CEO & Co-Founder Elizabeth A. Vazquez gave an overview of the work being done globally to support female entrepreneurs. Other speakers included Leah Manenzhe, Acting CEO of Gauteng Enterprise Propeller and Pamela Ward, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs and Regional Senior Commercial Officer - Sub-Saharan Africa.
The rest of the day’s program was filled with interactive discussions, feedback sessions, and presentations from a variety of different stakeholders and leaders in the global supplier diversity and inclusion space. Some of the key highlights included:
- Global corporate member panel with representatives of WEConnect International, Accenture, P&G, IBM and EY.
- A recap discussion of the IFC Corporate Roundtable entitled “Proven Strategies to Increase Women SME Access to Corporate Value Chains in South Africa.” This roundtable was hosted in partnership with WEConnect International.
- An informative session with the World Bank Group’s Elizabeth Mutesi on what the World Bank Group is South Africa to improve supplier diversity in its supply chain.
- Presentations from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and The Innovation Hub on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, specifically through the UJ’s Technology Incubator services and services of The Innovation Hub.
- Award Ceremony lead by EY’s Lorenzo A. Bell to honor 17 young women entrepreneurs who participated in the Young Entrepreneurs’ Business Pitch Competition. Katlego Moripe, founder of KREATIVIST FORMULA, was awarded first place with a prize of $1,500 to support her continued business development.
- Corporate Champions Award Ceremony presented by South African women business owners to honor corporate representatives that continue to enable, support and encourage women-owned businesses in the WEConnect International network.
- An announcement by Procter & Gamble to launch of its second edition of the Women Entrepreneurs Development Program. Applications for the 2019 session open in March.
- A panel session, hosted by the Chair of WEConnect International in South Africa’s Advisory Council Jacob Pretorius of Johnson & Johnson, on the collaborative power of government, corporations, and women-business owners to drive change.
The conference served as a perfect capstone to a week of exciting events that showcased WEConnect International in South Africa’s ability to continue growing a regional and global network that works to connect women business enterprises to market-access opportunity. Learn more about the pre-conference events hosted throughout the week: