AWS pledges R365m towards SME empowerment

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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have signed an equity agreement that will see 100 black entrepreneurs empowered.

The agreement, signed yesterday on the sidelines of the ongoing South Africa Investment Conference, will see AWS invest R365 million towards the DTI’s B-BBEE Equity Equivalent Investment Programme.

According to a statement, the fund will be invested in the development of 100% black-owned South African small businesses within the ICT sector.

DTI director-general Lionel October highlights that Amazon has over the last five years made significant investment in data services in South Africa. “They have shown their confidence.”

The announcement comes as AWS plans to open data centres in SA by launching the AWS Africa infrastructure region in Cape Town in the first half of 2020.

October adds the department is interested in both industrialisation and transformation, bringing in black entrepreneurs and black women-owned businesses into the mainstream economy.

“Under this agreement signed today, 100 black businesses will be brought into the Amazon Web Services supply chain. AWS will incubate black entrepreneurs into the Amazon stable. That is how we do real empowerment.

“Amazon is building three data centres along the coast in the Western Cape; however, the black entrepreneurs programme will be across the country. They’ve met the first group of interns but it’s open for all entrepreneurs to join,” he explains.

Teresa Carlson, Amazon VP, worldwide public sector, concludes by saying the venture is a long-term project. “I’m sure we’ll find many other ways to work together and prosper.”

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