The study, conducted by Development Economics on behalf of Facebook, also reveals that if all the women who said they were 'very likely' to start a business (26%) did so, this would create 972 000 jobs within five years and over 803 000 new businesses within four years.

Lack of access to finance is the cited as the main barrier to women setting up independently. Facebook’s research shows that among those likely to start a business, not sure of how to get started (37%), worries about risk or finance security (36%) and not feeling prepared or ready (32%) are the key reasons holding them back from taking this step.

These impact women at every stage of their life – with women 55+ being less likely to start a business (13.5%), followed by those between 35 to 44 (20.5%).

The motivations for women wanting to set up a business also varies, with financial gains amongst the highest (54%), followed by those wanting to work on their own terms (50%) and interestingly those wanting to turn their passion/hobby into a career (40%).

"We know that helping women to start and grow prosperous companies is a powerful way of transforming our society and creating equal opportunities for all. When women do better, economies do better – they are an important part of the South African economy," says Nunu Ntshingila, regional director for Facebook in Africa. 

"Women make effective business leaders and unbelievable entrepreneurs, and that's why, this Women's Month, we're not only celebrating women who have built and run businesses, we're also calling on all women to realise their potential and take that leap of faith," adds Ntshingila.

The research also revealed:

The timing of when business starts

Overall, of those women who are very interested in setting up a business, slightly more than one-third appear to want to set up their business within a year. A further 35% anticipate establishing their business within two or three years, and close to 16% say they expect it would be more than three years in the future.

Types of businesses being planned by women

Women are more likely to be interested in setting up businesses in food and drink (28%), tourism and leisure (12%) and lifestyle (10%)

Number of businesses set up by women over four years

It is estimated that women aged between 25 to 34 will likely set up 293 000 businesses over the four years, followed by those aged 18to 24 with 213 000 and 35 to 44-year-olds setting up 131 000 businesses

The use of online tools

Approximately 81% of females reported using online tools to help communicate with customers, which was significantly higher than the proportion of male small business managers saying they did this (72%).  

More research results can be found in the infographic below: