Networking giant Cisco SA has opened a R10 million state-of-the-art incubation hub in Durban.
This is the second facility of its kind built by the company in SA and aims to develop SMMEs as well as speed up their entry into the digital marketplace.
In November last year, the Innovation Hub - the innovation agency of the Gauteng province - collaborated with Cisco SA to launch a similar R10 million incubation facility at the Innovation Hub in Tshwane.
The Durban hub, called "Cisco Edge Incubation Centre", is part of the company's commitment to action priorities of the country's National Development Plan 2030 in terms of creating jobs, enhancing skills development and boosting economic growth.
"As the government, we acknowledge that in order to secure the future prosperity of this nation, we need to take advantage of the rapid technological changes taking place around the globe," says KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs, Sihle Zikalala.
"We welcome the establishment of the Cisco Edge Incubation Centre here within the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone," he notes.
The Dube TradePort Corporation is a business entity of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government that manages a 3 000ha infrastructure project called the Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone set up to promote local and international trade.
"We see the incubation centre playing an important role of developing our people's capabilities in the areas of technology and innovation. We hope this incubation centre will be among the catalysts which will promote the growth of a thriving knowledge economy that will drive socio-economic development and accelerate our competitiveness as the province of KwaZulu-Natal," says Zikalala.
The hub is a smart building with what Cisco says is cutting-edge technology, offering business facilities, including workspaces with high-speed broadband connectivity, video conferencing and collaboration platforms, as well as boardroom and training facilities.
In addition, SMMEs will be able to connect with global Cisco experts, who can support them to develop business ideas and concepts in a digital world.
Dube TadePort CEO Hamish Erskine says the Dube TradePort is a world-class special economic zone that enhances SA's manufacturing and export capabilities, and supports airport-related activities including cargo operations, agriculture, warehousing and commercial real estate.
It is geared toward promoting business growth, the creation of employment, revenue generation, the export of value-added commodities and the attraction of foreign and local investment.
"We foresee the Cisco Edge Incubation Centre having a huge impact on developing local business and entrepreneurs throughout the province of KwaZulu-Natal, enabling them to build their capacity to compete on a global stage," says Erskine.
"The facility will also be one of the cornerstones of the knowledge-intensive firms that include an innovation centre, BPO [business process outsourcing] and research facilities that we look forward to bringing into the Dube City precinct over the next 10 years as we develop the core of what will become a smart city around the King Shaka International Airport.
"These facilities will leverage off new and existing world-class telecommunications and cloud computing infrastructure which is available within Dube TradePort Special Economic Zone. We are proud to have been chosen as the location to host such a cutting-edge business incubation centre."
Growing African talent
Clayton Naidoo, general manager for Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa, says: "Our goal is to enable SMMEs to accelerate their growth by ensuring they get access to world-class technology. We are living in a world that is changing faster than ever imagined and we are inspired by the prospect of an economy with abundant jobs, a place where entrepreneurs can thrive.
"With technology comes many opportunities, especially in Africa, the fastest growing region in the world. Cisco recognises Africa's talent and we want to continue being an enabler of tech ecosystems across the continent. With our resources, SMMEs are not only able to grow but also stay competitive."
Erskine says the objective of the Cisco Edge Centre is to create a circle of opportunity for unemployed ICT graduates and "we plan to do this with an ecosystem of partners".
"Representing the public sector ecosystem will be SITA, who will work in partnership with Cisco to incubate SMMEs and ensure they have the required skills to design, implement and manage government networks. These selected SMMEs will have equal opportunity to bid for SITA or government ICT projects.
"The kind of facilities at this hub will give entrepreneurs the kind of head start they require to gain a competitive advantage. It will also help them stay ahead of the game in a tough marketplace, while boosting economic growth for the country," says Erskine.
The centre will provide SMMEs the opportunity to employ graduates from its Networking Academy (NetAcad) programme to give them workplace experience.
According to Dube TradePort, NetAcad is the world's largest classroom, giving students hands-on digital skills training for in-demand careers.
It points out that for 20 years, NetAcad has changed the lives of 9.2 million students in 180 countries. In SA alone, more than 62 000 students (29% of whom are female) have been trained with technical skills.