In 2012, The Coca-Cola Company signed a global agreement with UN Women to economically empower women within our value chain in three pilot countries – South Africa, Egypt and Brazil. 

In December 2016, the four-year partnership in South Africa came to a close   at an event to celebrate the results of the partnership.  26,295 women micro-entrepreneurs received business skills training, leadership training, mentoring & peer networking skills and access to finance. All this not only helped the women increase their revenues by 40% on average but also increased their confidence and leadership abilities within their communities including supporting and mentoring other female entrepreneurs. 

The celebratory event was chaired by South Africa’s Chief Director of the Department of Small Business Development, Nomvula Makgotlho.  The key note speaker Professor Edith Vries, Director General of the Department of Small Business Development and the panelists included, Anne Githuku-Shongwe, of UN Women South Africa, Professor Edwin Bbenkele from the University of Johannesburg, and Asyia Sheik-Ojwang, PAC Manager for the South Africa Franchise. 

Describing the partnership, Prof Vries said “Here are three different types of organisations, with three different paradigms, but they actually worked to together to achieve remarkable results. The programme utilized and tested a model of partnership that leverages the strength of different organizations, which can be replicated for other programmes targeting beneficiaries or groups with similar characteristics. We want to thank Coca-Cola for making South Africa part of the pilot phase. This is an example of a partnership that has worked and the South African government would like to thank you very much for this”.

Anne Githuku-Shongwe, of UN Women South Africa provided further detail about the partnership, saying “We worked together to address barriers facing women entrepreneurs, providing them with business skills, leadership training, mentoring, peer networking skills. South Africa was considered the most successful of the three countries and was thus granted an extension until December 2016, which we are very proud of”. 

Sharing  details of the achievements of the partnership, a panel comprising of Lawrence Gadzikwa, CEO Hand in Hand Southern Africa (HIHSA), Susan Kimathi Programme Specialist UN Women, Asyia Sheik-Owjang from Coca-Cola and moderated by Sibongile Siyanda, Training Manager HIHSA explained why and how the partnership was formed, and what was achieved over four years. 

Kimathi of UN Women described how the beneficiaries of the program are now able to save more money than before, which they reinvest into their businesses.  Women entrepreneurs have taken the initiative to identify new business opportunities – expanding operations beyond their physical shop, and reached out to, mobile operations among others.

Prof Bbankele of the University of Johannesburg shared highlights of his research showing lived experiences of women who participated in the programme. The beneficiaries of the programme also expressed their gratitude and articulated that the 5by20 was a real eye opener which had made a difference in their lives.

Before the event concluded, Githuku-Shongwe, Prof Vries and Sheik-Ojwang presided over a graduation ceremony of 16 program trainers who will go on to train more and more women entrepreneurs with business skills and leadership training. All 16 received their International Labour Organisation (ILO) accredited certificates for the Start & Improve Your Business Programme

Sheik-Owjang concluded the event by saying “I want to thank UN Women and Hand-in-Hand for their dedication and showing us the definition of a truly successful partnership. “I would also like to thank all the women entrepreneurs who have participated in the program. You are more than just a number, more than just research. We will always remember you, and your stories will always inspire us. Every ending does have a beginning. And at Coca-Cola we look forward to supporting and growing more and more beginnings for as many women as possible”.