eKasiLabs promote entrepreneurship in the townships
The Gauteng Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Lebogang Maile launched the eKasiLab incubation facility at the Vaal University of Technology Southern Gauteng Science Park, in Sebokeng in the Vaal on Thursday.
The initiative is as a result of a collaboration between the Gauteng Economic Development department, the Innovation Hub (the innovation agency of the Gauteng Province), and the Vaal University Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park.
The eKasiLab programme, according to the department, is a vehicle for the promotion of the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the townships, aimed at providing business development support to start-ups within various sectors such as information and communications technology, (ICT) advanced manufacturing, green economy and bio-economy.
The vision behind eKasiLabs is to take innovation to the people by establishing co-creation and innovation spaces in the townships, thereby giving local communities access to computers, Internet, entrepreneurship mentors and networking opportunities and all other services that are offered at The Innovation Hub in Tshwane.
"The eKasiLab programme responds to the low rate of entrepreneurship, most especially among Gauteng-based township entrepreneurs. The labs will focus not only on providing opportunities for talented or promising township-based youth, but also aims to develop solutions that align with the e-Government Department priorities as well promote the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the township with specific focus on new innovative output in the community, in line with transformation, modernisation and re-industrialisation/township economy revitalisation provincial economic policies," says the Gauteng Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development department.
Piloted first with the City of Tshwane in 2014, the eKasiLabs programme has seen success in ten Gauteng townships such as Garankuwa, Soweto, Mohlakeng, Sebokeng, Mamelodi, Tembisa, Mabopane, Kathorus, Kagiso and Alexandra. Currently 33 start-ups are being incubated in the ICT, green economy and manufacturing sectors at the Sebokeng facility.
"Our involvement in the innovation journey has seen us embrace digital technologies and includes a range of measures designed to facilitate access to connectivity. We owe it to the youth of 1976 to initiate programmes that would liberate today's youth from socio-economic segregation. I am glad that the introduction of the FabLab and EkasiLabs will be the entry point into the exciting world of entrepreneurship, mathematics and science," explained the then Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa at the time of inception.
Delivering her budget speech in March, MEC for finance Barbara Creecy announced that Gauteng's Department of e-Government will be allocated a budget of R1 billion over the next three years aimed at supporting the ongoing provincial modernisation drive and to continue to connect all government institutions to the Gauteng Broadband Network.
The Gauteng provincial government has over the past few months reiterated its ambition to build an innovation ecosystem to become a leader in the ICT, research and development sectors.
"Central to the functions of the EkasiLab programme is the provision of opportunities to talented township-based entrepreneurs, the development of solutions aligned with the eGovernment Department's priorities, as well as to promote the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the township, with specific focus on innovative outputs in the community," notes the Innovation Hub.