Xhanti Payi (The Other Foundation) & Justin Nelson (NGLCC)
In a major boost for South African LGBT businesses and entrepreneurs, an agreement to start an LGBT business network has been struck with the US National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).
Headed by The Other Foundation, a task team has been set up to begin the process of establishing the network – an African first. It will promote, empower and give a voice to LGBT businesses, advocate for LGBT supplier diversity and inclusion among coprorates and provide networking opportunities for its members.
The initiative was made public at last week’s International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) Annual Convention in Cape Town; believed to be the first international LGBT business conference to be held in Africa.
Speaking at the event, openly gay MP Zakhele Mbhele (DA) commented that many of the issues facing the LGBT community, including the heightened vulnerability of black lesbian women in particular, could be directly linked to the country’s socio-economic inequalities.
He said that the economic development of all South Africans is vital, adding that, “We have to get the basis of this country fixed to tackle these manifestations of homophobia”.
Xhanti Payi, a trustee of The Other Foundation, told the audience that prejudice and discrimination has often kept LGBT people out of work in South Africa; affecting their ability to make a living.
“We need to create spaces where people can create their own businesses and succeed,” he said, describing the founding of the network as “a very important initiative”.
The Other Foundation signed an agreement with the NGLCC at the ceremony that will see the two bodies cooperating to get the local business network off the ground.
Justin Nelson, Co-Founder and President of the NGLCC, explained that the American organisation will assist its South African counterpart by sharing expertise and networks. He said he hoped to help bring “an LGBT business movement” to the country.
Nelson offered some eye-opening statistics about the economic clout of the LGBT community. The NGLCC estimates that the population of LGBT adults in the US is around 16 to 20 million people.
According to Nelson, if the American LGBT population were its own country, its economy would be the 19th largest in the world.
When it came to South Africa, the organisation estimates that there are 3,29 million LGBT people in the country. If this community were a nation, its economy would be the 105th biggest in the world.
The NGLCC is the largest LGBT economic advocacy and business development organisation in the world and represents America’s 1.4 million LGBT business owners. One of its key roles is to certify LGBT businesses on behalf of corporations that wish to make use of LGBT suppliers as part of their diversity and inclusion policies.