Note from BW of Brazil: Brazil was once (and many ways still is) a country that refused to acknowledge that the existence of differences within its population; citizens of Brazil were all simply Brazilians. Still today, the common perception among Brazilians is that “we are all equal” despite obvious various social, gender and racial differences and inequalities. Because of this widespread belief that “one size fits all”, as recently as the 1990s (and still today), Afro-Brazilians had problems finding products that specifically fit their cultural preferences or physical differences from Brazilians who consider themselves white. As such, black women had problems finding simple everyday products that fit their needs such as makeup, panty hose and hair creams. But in the past few decades, a number of Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs have found success stepping in to fill this gap and this class of businessmen and businesswomen continues to grow as the article below shows.
Number of black entrepreneurs grows, but inequalities persist
For the first time, the number of black entrepreneurs has surpassed that of whites in Brazil.
By Cieldo Silva
For the first time, the number of black entrepreneurs has surpassed that of whites in Brazil. Research by Sebrae (1) points out that between 2002 and 2012, the percentage of micro and small entrepreneurs who declared themselves pretos (blacks) or pardos (browns) rose from 44% to 50%.
The change reflects economic and cultural transformations. The ascension of so-called new C class – 80% black, according to a study of the Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos da Presidência (Secretariat of Strategic Affairs of the Presidency) – meant as much the expansion of the consumer market as the black businesses. Culturally, this rise has resulted in demands for specific products and services to this public.
“I think it has much to do with affirmative action. This is reflected in the economy, because [the black] goes after products to reaffirm this identity,” says Adriana Barbosa, 37.
She is the creator of the Feira Preta, an annual event that brings together black entrepreneurs. “In addition to the historical context, the expo was an opportunity to engage in a market where we saw potential to grow.”
For Luiz Barretto, president of Sebrae, segmentation is a right bet. “We must exploit the opportunities [that come] of these differences,” he says.
It was the participation in Feira Preta that convinced Cristina Mendonça, 57, and Ana Paula Xongani, 27, that there was business market for clothes and accessories of an Afro-Brazilian aesthetic.
The mother and daughter are owners of Xongani, a shop selling parts produced with fabrics imported from Mozambique.
“We saw that there was a shortage in the market for this population that wants a reference of blackness,” says Xongani, who sees her work as a form of activism.
A LONG WAY
Although the majority, black entrepreneurs focus on small businesses and branches of lower profitability, such as agriculture and construction, while whites predominate in machines and health services industry (see below).
The average income of black entrepreneurs improved, but that of whites is still 116% higher (in 2002, the difference was 134%) and, the entrepreneurs themselves say access to bank credit is still a challenge.
Xongani says that she and her mother saved for two years to finance the import of tissues, because they couldn’t get financing from banks.
“People don’t believe in our business because they don’t know it, they don’t see the value that our work has. It’s institutional racism.”
Patrícia de Jesus, 35, also has problems with access to credit. She’s the owner of the Human Resources firm Empregueafro, which has among clients large companies such as (supermarket chain) Carrefour.
The businesswoman is part of the Projeto Brasil Afroempreendedor (Afro-entrepreneur Brazil Project), a partnership between Sebrae and the Adolpho Bauer Institute to train 1,200 black entrepreneurs in 12 States in developing their business.
“Most afroempreendedores (Afro-entrepreneurs) are still small people with small dreams because they don’t see themselves with the possibility of climbing to the large shares of the market,” says Adilton de Paula, project coordinator.
For him, achieving racial equality is also creating a black economic elite. “We have to create a successful elite in order to say ‘we can also’. There is a cultural barrier [that says otherwise],” he says.
Source: Nova Rádio Progresso
1. SEBRAE – Sebrae is part of a system created in 1972 – the Centro Brasileiro de Apoio à Pequena e Média Empresa (Brazilian Center for Support to Small and Medium Enterprise or Cebrae) linked to the Federal Government. Since 1990, the organization became an autonomous social service denominated Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas – Sebrae or Brazilian Service of Support for Micro and Small Enterprises. Formally, it is a civil nonprofit, created by Law No. 8029 on April 12, 1990, regulated by Decree No. 99.570, of October 9, 1990, subsequently amended by Law No. 8154 of December 28,1990. Source