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4IR accelerator programme supports female-owned firms

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The University of Witwatersrand’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct kicks off its inaugural Ya Basadi in 4IR programme this month. It looks to support female tech entrepreneurs through tech skills development to transform their businesses.

Ya Basadi, meaning ‘for women’ in Setswana, is an acceleration programme that seeks to develop established women-owned and women-led businesses through entrepreneurial, technical and financial support.

Through the programme, Tshimologong in partnership with global financial services firm JP Morgan support established small businesses in transitioning into technology and/or technology-enabled companies with the purpose of optimising their operations quickly and efficiently.

With a selected cohort of entrepreneurs ready to start the 2020 edition of the accelerator, participants will be challenged to develop or build a minimum viable product (MVP) that will be presented at the end of the 12-month programme.

The initiative is developed with three main components: technology training, experiential learning through immersion in industry, and the development of an MVP.

According to Tshimologong, the accelerator will enable participants to understand how to apply and adopt emerging technologies into their business, such as machine learning, data analytics, robotics, Internet of things (IOT) and virtual reality (VR), which can ultimately lead to growth.

Khwezi Fudu Cenenda, enterprise development manager at Tshimologong, says the Ya Basadi programme launch taking place this month is well-timed as the country dedicates the month of August to saluting women. “Entrepreneurship is fast becoming a chosen way to counteract the low economic growth and increase unemployment in SA.

“This is particularly prevalent when looking at the Small Enterprise Development Agency’s research, which notes 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises are currently owned by women. Unfortunately, these businesses often require funding as well as support in terms of digital transformation.”

The ultimate goal of the programme is to help women-owned businesses scale, generate more value and create employment, particularly in the Johannesburg economy, she adds.

Kevin Latter, senior country officer for JP Morgan, comments: “We are excited to support this innovative programme at a time in our country where small business growth is crucial.

“As a financial services firm, JP Morgan globally focuses on supporting small business and the empowerment of women. This programme therefore fits perfectly with our global ethos. The devastating impact of COVID-19 in SA has made it even more important for the business sector to support the development of smaller businesses and job creation.”

Cenenda says the programme focuses on fourth industrial revolution (4IR) skills because of the opportunities it presents for women’s businesses and how this evolution could assist them to flourish beyond micro and small business status.

“Only 13% of women graduate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while only 23% hold IT jobs.

“This means the potential for women to participate in 4IR is limited. Our objective with the programme is to innovate and collaborate to find new ways of increasing access for women in technology.”

The year-long Ya Basadi programme will comprise technology masterclasses in 11 areas of technology, including app and Web development, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, IOT, VR and cyber security.

The entrepreneurs will get practical, on the job experience in industry; learning circles for the cohort to share experiences; and will conclude with at least an MVP being developed for or by each start-up.

A cross-section of some of the solutions the cohort has developed includes the provision of a travelling nurse using an online booking system; automated recycling; the provision of WiFi to households in townships; offering assessments and career guidance purely through automated calendar bookings and video calls; and using financial tools to protect Africa’s green assets.

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