Former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has called for radical economic transformation in the funeral industry.
"You must be part of this radical economic transformation. We want to see you part of the entire value chain. We want to see a totally transformed industry. It is in our hands. We cannot expect anyone else to do it for us," Dlamini-Zuma said on Tuesday.
She was speaking at the Funeral Indaba "women for business" gala dinner at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban.
Dlamini-Zuma said that while SA had an active funeral sector, the transformation to big black business in the industry was slow.
"Though there are many people in this industry we see a small number of big companies. Most of the black companies are in the category of small and upcoming. Most of the benefits of this industry go to large companies."
She said that most undertakers were not part of the insurance industry and were losing out on large amounts of money.
"They [undertakers] act almost like agents. Most of the money is with the underwriters. Undertakers are providing the final service yet do not take a lot of profit. Undertakers are left out of the value chain."
She added that most black undertakers were not part of manufacturing.
"Most funeral black undertakers are not manufacturing caskets for example. If we are in the majority being buried and majority in the sector, we should be manufacturing as the majority."
She said that the funeral sector should also be part of horticulture.
"We need to be in the value chain of this industry including horticulture. We always use flowers but how many here are part of growing flowers?"
Dlamini-Zuma sang high praise for the industry saying that the work done was a pivotal part of society.
"They serve families and individuals at most vulnerable times. This industry's services are procured largely by private citizens but can only do their work after receiving a legal death certificate.
"These professionals do their work in the presence of many in the background almost unnoticed."
According to Dlamini-Zuma, women in business was vital because women were the face of poverty in South Africa.
"If we are to deal with poverty, you cannot exclude women. Women are the majority of the unemployed. Yet we know how hard working women are. Women are the most hard-working on this continent."
She questioned why women were always associated with small business.
"Women must be skilled to succeed. The skills revolution must include young women. In the world including Africa, when we talk about women in business they talk microbusiness and micro lending. I don't understand what is micro about us?
She added: "Yes some women will start micro, but we cannot just be that. Women must be encouraged to go much further."