Women’s Development Business (WDB) was established in 1991 by Mrs Zanele Mbeki and a small group of powerful and determined women who wanted to be active participants in the new democratic South Africa. WDB Founders understood that economic development had to play a critical role in pulling South Africans out of poverty and on the road to democracy. They further recognized that women’s contribution – as workers and as managers of human welfare is critical to the ability of households, communities and the nations to tackle the crisis of meeting people’s survival and subsistence needs. The vision has always been “to put development resources directly into the hands of South Africa’s ‘unbankable’ women so that they could start their own income-generating activities”.
With seed capital of just R20 000, WDB launched a pilot project in Mpumalanga; providing 50 women with loans of R300 each, which were paid back in full in just three months… and so an incredible journey began.
The emergence of WDB was based on the understanding that the utilisation of loans/savings and support services would result in the creation of new jobs, an increase in the average income, the expansion of existing micro-enterprises and improved quality of life for their families.
In late 1996, a fully women-owned, led and managed investment holding company, WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH), was formed to ensure the Trust could be sustainable and independent so to reduce its reliance on donors. WDBIH promotes the advancement of women in senior leadership positions in its investee companies and serves on the boards of its investments.
WDBIH has grown to be an active strategic partner, represented at board level across a number of listed blue-chip and unlisted investee companies.
While most investment companies aim to pay their investors dividends, WDBIH is unique in that most of its profits are channelled to the WDB Trust.