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Transport SETA creates logistics township tech entrepreneurs

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TETA CEO Maphefo Anno-Frempong.
TETA CEO Maphefo Anno-Frempong.

The Transport Education Training Authority (TETA) has set its sights on making SA’s transportation industry more than a catalyst of the expanding digital economy.

It wants to use technology to create entirely new business models and sustainability for the sector.

TETA, one of the 21 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) mandated to facilitate skills development and training, says the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent growth of the digital economy forced the authority to reimagine the transport sector.

In the last 12 months, with a R120 million investment in skills and training, the SETA has so far assisted 2 420 young entrepreneurs with digital skills, readying them to participate in the new digital economy, says TETA CEO Maphefo Anno-Frempong.

In an interview with ITWeb on Monday, when she launched the SETA’s latest initiative, TETA/TDM 100, she says the ambitious programme seeks to create 100 logistics township-based tech entrepreneurs.

The project is a partnership with tech start-up Township Distribution Model (TDM), which is pioneering a township economic renewal programme, anchored on the digital economy, particularly e-commerce.

“We want to bring dignity to township entrepreneurs who will be connected to the market and linked to a tech ecosystem that gives them efficiency,” says Anno-Frempong.

She tells ITWeb that the transport sector has to be tech-savvy and search for new opportunities in the increasingly digitised economy, which now relies heavily on online services.

As a result, TETA has launched multiple tech initiatives targeting the taxi industry, long-distance buses, scooters and informal truck and small bakkie owners, such as those who park outside big retailers like Makro and Builders Warehouse, looking to unlock business opportunities.

Anno-Frempong explains: “As an organisation, we have looked inward and have also looked outward towards our clients. Internally, in order for us to be agile, to use technology much better than we traditionally have, I think COVID-19 forced us to move faster.

“We have identified the scooters that transport perishables on behalf of large e-commerce platforms as growing in our sector; we have identified the potential of the little bakkies and trucks that park outside retailers; and we have also identified a way for the taxis and buses to use and adopt technology to make their life easy.”

Reimagining the future

Detailing TETA’s new tech focus, she says: “We realised e-commerce is on the rise because we are now doing online shopping, online distribution. TETA understands this is an industry (e-commerce) in our sector that can be supported, resulting in increased distribution channels.

TETA looked at the taxi industry and identified ways in which it could use technology to not only transport passengers but transport goods during the day when the taxis are not busy, to diversify their model.

“In order to support the taxi industry in this way, we got them a coaching institution, to incubate and train them to start identifying taxi ranks where they could pilot a model. We call it ‘express parcel delivery’. You need ICT to do that.”

As to long-distance buses, Anno-Frempong says the sector was also impacted by COVID-19 “quite a lot up until last year November” when the buses couldn’t transport people across provincial lines.

“We came up with an online programme, working with an organisation of bus companies, to try and get them to comply, improve their cash flow and help them with fleet management. It is still a programme which is going to use ICTs. It will bring ICTs in their operations, trip planning and even passenger support.”

TETA also identified an opportunity for informal logistics operators within the transport industry and a pilot project is currently under way.

“Anytime you go and buy anything, be it at Makro or Builders Warehouse, you will find someone with a one-tonne truck or a bakkie; we call them informal transporters. They don’t have a market; they depend on word of mouth. The issue with informal trading is that they cannot grow; sometimes they just park outside of the shops with no customers, and it is not efficient.

“They don’t have a way of knowing when they can go and park outside the retailers because they don’t have an app and they are not using ICTs to help them. We want to work with the informal transport operators and connect them to a market, connect them to customers, get them to be trained and allow them to use technology. That way, they get out of the informal system and they get into a formal one, which allows them to manage their cash flow better.”

Responding to growth

TDM chairperson Ismail Sadek says the company was established “as a response to support the growth and development of the digital economy, focusing on 52 established townships and 3 500 informal human settlements.

“TDM recognised the need to use tech to migrate the unemployed to self-employment opportunities and has now partnered with TETA to launch the TETA 100 as a pilot project.

“We are grateful for the support and assistance provided by the TETA,” comments Sadek.

“TDM has partnered with the Empire Partner Foundation Tech Hub, which has mostly black youth female developers, to build the e-commerce platform that will support the development of the logistics and supply chain solutions within the townships and informal human settlements.”

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