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Chance for SA techpreneurs to tap into Irish tech

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South Africa and Ireland have committed to boost the local tech community, partnering to launch the Irish Tech Challenge South Africa.

Announced during a virtual launch yesterday, the Tech Challenge is an initiative of the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), which is an entity of the science and innovation ministry.

The challenge has been established to incentivise the birth of mutually-beneficial partnerships between Irish technology ecosystems and South African entrepreneurs and their businesses.

According to a DSI statement, SA has great potential for high-growth tech entrepreneurs to be major drivers of innovation, economic growth, technology development and deployment, job creation and poverty alleviation.

However, they often face barriers due to limited resources, inadequate access to appropriate global networks and infrastructure, high technology costs, and lack of access to talent and expertise.

In this regard, the DSI says, the challenge will support innovation, technology development, and technology deployment and commercialisation in South Africa.

It highlights the challenge will target five majority-owned South African tech businesses that address the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Young, female tech entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as those tech entrepreneurs whose products or services are ready to scale globally stand to benefit, it notes.

Fionnuala Gilsenan, ambassador of Ireland to SA, states: “All across South Africa, there is enormous entrepreneurial potential and creativity, particularly in the tech space. That creativity is particularly vibrant among young entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs.

“We want, therefore, through the Tech Challenge, to provide a platform for cooperation and sharing of expertise between the South African and Irish tech ecosystems for mutual benefit.”

The Irish tech scene is regarded as having done incredibly well, with the country becoming the location of choice for some of the world’s largest computer and software companies. It is now the second largest exporter of computer and IT services globally.

South Africa has become a favoured ICT investment hub for Irish companies in recent years, with Dublin-headquartered independent telecoms software provider Openet setting up a local office in Johannesburg in 2019.

In addition, Irish fintech firms have been active in SA, with an increasing number targeting growth in the country. Big-four bank Nedbank has a partnership with Irish fintech firm Fexco, to enable global visitors in SA to pay in their home currencies.

TIA’s Senisha Moonsamy notes governments in the global north are shifting their developmental agenda from aid, towards trade.

“Within this trend is the belief that technology, innovation and entrepreneurship can have a profound impact on the economic transformation of a country,” notes Moonsamy.

“TIA, through its Enterprise Development & GCIP Unit, has collaborated with the Embassy of Ireland and DSI in developing the Ireland South Africa Technology Challenge to focus on youth and women in marginalised communities in South Africa, ultimately strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem through best practices from Ireland.”

The first year of the Irish Tech Challenge South Africa will offer chosen tech entrepreneurs grant funding to the value of €10 000 (roughly R170 000), strategic access to South African and Irish tech ecosystem actors, acceleration support for their company’s global growth, as well as a 10-day curated trip to Ireland later this year to connect with potential partners and stakeholders.

The application deadline for local tech entrepreneurs is 5 April.

Click here to make a submission.

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