Cisco injects R10m into SMME incubation centre

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Executives from Cisco, The Innovation Hub and SITA officially unveil the Edge Incubation Centre.
Executives from Cisco, The Innovation Hub and SITA officially unveil the Edge Incubation Centre.

Cisco SA has invested R10 million in a newly launched Cisco Edge Incubation Centre, aimed at providing a space to help 30 technology small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) grow their business and speed up their entry to market.

The centre, unveiled in Pretoria this morning, is based at The Innovation Hub and will be run in partnership with the State IT Agency and The Innovation Hub.

Through the Cisco Edge Incubation Centre, the IT and networking company says it aims to provide SMMEs with its latest technologies, alongside training and enablement programmes, in line with the priorities set out by the National Development Plan in terms of job creation, poverty alleviation and driving economic growth.

Speaking at the launch today, Clayton Naidoo, Cisco's GM for Sub-Saharan Africa, said the incubation centre is designed to help prepare SMMEs for the digital economy and ultimately lead to job creation.

"The Cisco Edge Incubation Centre can be defined as a circle of opportunity which is centred on job creation in a country with a high unemployment rate. Around the edges of this circle lie our SMMEs, which will receive training and certification from our training partners, to build their industry 4.0 skills.

"Through the certification programmes, we want to remove the barriers often encountered by technology SMMEs which hinder them from partnering with original equipment manufacturers, which require certain criteria before working with small businesses. Once we have removed that barrier, we then give them a space to collaborate, access the latest technologies and further develop their business models."

The hub is a smart building that offers complete business facilities, including workspaces with high-speed broadband connectivity, software-as-a-service technology, video conferencing and collaboration platforms, file-sharing tools as well as boardroom and training facilities.

In addition, SMMEs will be able to connect with global Cisco experts, who can help them develop business ideas and concepts in a digital world.

In the coming months, Cisco plans to establish similar centres in Gauteng (Tshimologong Precinct), Eastern Cape (East London Industrial Development Zone) and KwaZulu-Natal (Dube Trade Port).

"Cisco is no longer just a networking company but it is moving towards becoming a software company, with the majority of our acquisitions being in the software space. Cisco is conscious of the National Development Plan, and as such, we want to contribute to the country's job creation efforts. As a global company, we want to enable SMMEs to have access to our resources no matter where these resources sit in the world," notes Naidoo.

Among the 30 SMMEs that will receive development support is ICT service provider Makwa IT; IT project management start-up Vumela IT Service, and analogue to digital technology converter start-up A2D24.

Lethabo Mokone, CEO of Makwa IT, explains: "One of the things that hinders SMMEs from getting business opportunities, is the inability to provide potential clients with a proof-of-concept and to afford the latest technologies.

"Through the Cisco Edge Incubation Centre, we now have a space where we can run demos and further develop our applications. We are very grateful for that. I think SMMEs should invest more of their time in gaining certification, because once you have the skills, this opens up a world of opportunities for the business to expand beyond local confinement. We are looking for new graduates who will join our internship programme next year, as we plan to expand our business."

For more than 20 years, Cisco has invested in upskilling students and graduates, through its Networking Academy (NetAcad), aimed at providing students with hands-on digital skills training to prepare them for in-demand careers and the digital economy.

More than seven million students to date have graduated through the academy globally. In SA alone, NetAcad trained 8 500 students last year, with 92% completing their goals and landing new work opportunities, notes Cisco.

Advocate Pieter Holl, acting CEO for The Innovation Hub, said this is an incredible opportunity that would change many lives for the better: "This centre allows young people and entrepreneurs to equip themselves with vital and specialised capabilities that will give them a head-start in the fast-paced digital world. With Cisco's guidance, this will ultimately help drive SA's economic growth."

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