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Her exceptional expertise in integrated business development has propelled a Welkom-based business woman, Renay van der Berg, from her roots in the Free State Province into the global arena of the bi-annual and prestigious UNCTAD Empretec Women in Business Awards. She is one of only ten finalists worldwide and the only South African business woman in the group of finalists.

Not that Van der Berg with her 30 years experience back-up is new to accolades for her visionary leadership in capacitating and empowering especially small businesses with focus on cooperatives, women and youth. Van der Berg, owner of PRoComm, was recently awarded “SA’s Most Influential Woman in Business & Government – SME Sector”, by CEO Magazine in 2013.

The 10 finalists for the fourth United Nation’s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Empretec Women in Business Award (WBA) was announced during UNCTAD’s Investment, Enterprise and Development Commission’s recent 6th session in Geneva, Switzerland. (presentation attached)

The awards have been presented every two years since 2008 to exceptional women entrepreneurs who have benefited from the Empretec entrepreneurship development training and become role models by creating jobs, inspiring others and improving the quality of life of their local communities.

This year was particularly competitive, as more than 100 nominations from 35 National Empretec Centres accros the world were received, according to a spokesperson of UNCTAD.

The 10 finalists have been chosen by a distinguished panel of entrepreneurship experts based on the criteria of leadership, innovation and impact in the community.

The final three winners will be announced on 15 October, during UNCTAD's World Investment Forum which will take place from 13 to 16 October 2014 in Geneva. This year, the Forum is focusing on "Investing in Sustainable Development" and that is why the panel has also chosen two special recognitions to two empreteco’s who have a green and a social enterprise, respectively.

The finalists are examples of individuals who have overcome obstacles and persevered to establish and grow successful companies.

They come from different countries across UNCTAD’s Empretec network and work in a variety of sectors ranging from education, fashion, martial arts and security services, amongst others. They all share a contagious passion for their work and are using their role as businesswomen to give back to their communities. Sharing her skills, knowledge and experience gained over 3 decades, to empower emerging entrepreneurs to become part of the economic chain and create sustainable enterprises, is Van der Berg’s passion.

The Empretec Programme was established by the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development’s (UNCTAD) Division of Investment and Enterprise to promote the creation of sustainable SMEs and support entrepreneurs around the world to build innovative and internationally competitive SMEs. It is an integrated capacity-building programme, empowering the entrepreneur to also contribute to the development of a dynamic private sector.

Van der Berg was invited by The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda, an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry - dti) to attend an entrepreneurship training workshop in March 2012 and found it very challenging as it confronted her to critically analyze her personality traits that hinder the entrepreneurial process. “The workshop also challenged one to turn one’s weaknesses into strengths,” she added.

The Seda Learning Academy hosts the Empretec Centre in South Africa in partnership with the United Nation’s Empretec Programme, and has assisted more than 650 South African small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to sharpen their entrepreneurial competencies for running successful global businesses.

Van der Berg’s company, PRoComm, is an accredited service provider with Seda since 2005, assisting Seda’s clients with a variety of interventions i.e. supplier of marketing material, business development services, skills development facilitator and mentorship. “If it was not for Seda who invested in me, empowered me to grow as an entrepreneur, also through Empretec, this opportunity would never have landed on my lap.”

South Africa has become the 33rd country in the world to implement the Empretec programme, through the Seda Learning Academy, affording South African SMEs an opportunity to become part of a global network of business interaction and linkages which will help them upscale their business activities, improve their competitiveness and skills, and acquire new investments.

Mr. John Francis, the Head of Seda’s Learning Academy in Pretoria, says the programme encourages entrepreneurs to focus on their roles as entrepreneurs and challenges them to critically examine their personal strengths and weaknesses. On completion, successful candidates are known as an Empretecos, an internationally acknowledged title.

“Ultimately, the programme helps entrepreneurs become more familiar with the behavioural competencies of successful entrepreneurs, strengthen and enhance those behaviours in themselves, and finally apply the behaviours in their own businesses,” explains Francis.

By trade Renay is an accredited public relations practitioner, which is the highest internationally recognized registration in the Public Relations industry. She started out as a Public Relations & Marketing consultant, and then progressed into integrated marketing communication. After gaining experience in business, she added integrated business development to the PRoComm service basket, with the latest service being mentoring SMME’s. Today she is a registered mentor with various organizations i.e. Business Partners, BWA, ILO, Seda.

Over the past seven years PRoComm has assisted more than 600 SMME’s through various interventions to ensure sustainable enterprises, to make this country a better place for all.

The 2014 finalists are (in alphabetical order by country):

Lorena Maria Eugenia Picasso, (Argentina): manufactures innovative educational games to stimulate the development of cognitive, motor, emotional and social abilities as well as therapeutic products which specialize in rehabilitation.

Kelly Dantas de Vasconcelos, Universidad da Crianca, (Brazil): provides educational services for children, focusing on a teaching methodology which highlights innovation and technology.

Tracy Antoinette Green Douglas, Pandama Retreat, (Guyana): produces a range of fruit wines, fruit soaps and art products using all local resources. It is a place of retreat where the local community and tourists can connect with nature.

Lina Jalil Khalifeh, SheFighter, (Jordan): established the first self-defense studio for women and girls in the Middle East and has a mission to generate awareness and decrease violence towards women.

Maya Sewnath, SSS Furniture, (Mauritius): manufactures tailor-made wooden furniture using local raw materials and specializes in the wedding and children's market.

Lara Cookey, Contextplay Matrix Ltd., (Nigeria): designs educational toys and recreational tools for early child development, including learning materials, playground equipment and furniture.

Thiane Diagne, JOUR J Couture, (Senegal): creates prêt-a-porter luxury clothing lines, which combine traditional Senegalese culture with innovative, high-quality designs.

Renay van der Berg, PRoComm, (South Africa): specializes in a range of integrated business services, including brand management, to allow enterprises to be sustainable.

Angelica M Rumsey, Angel Bites Ltd, (Zambia): manages the packaging and trading of dried foods that are a delicacy in Zambia and focuses on high hygiene and quality standards.

Divine Ndhlukula, SECURICO Security Services, (Zimbabwe): is a leading supplier of security solutions in Zimbabwe, including electronic security system installation, guarding, cash management and private investigation services.

To mark the theme of this year's Forum – "Investing in Sustainable Development" – two additional candidates were announced, who will receive a special recognition for their work as social and green entrepreneurs, respectively:

Special Recognition, Social entrepreneurship: Leena A. Irshaid, Renas Women Association, (Jordan): established the only pickling factory in Jordan that is founded, owned and managed by women. It mobilizes unemployed female agricultural engineers by training and hiring them.

Special Recognition, Green entrepreneurship : Pabla Anabela Torres, BioPro, (Argentina): start-up company which researches, develops, produces and markets organic products designed for crop protection and pest control, including a bio-pesticide.


TEL: 012 441 1187
MOBILE: 0835338030
Date: Thursday, 15 May 2014


Director Empretec South Africa
Mr. John Francis - Head: Learning Academy, Seda Head Office
TEL: 012 441 1340
FAX: 012 441 2340
MOBILE: 082 333 8841
Date: Thursday, 15 May 2014