Microsoft, tech NGOs in bid to develop township business

The team Kasi Army, which comprises young developers such as team leader Nonhlanhla Zembe (29), Sinazo Mona (32), Bongane Mawele (22), Mamello Mofokeng (27) Nkululeko Nkosi (27), Mfundo Ntuli (27) and Alex Thotse (25), took the first prize at the hackathon.

Johannesburg – Global tech powerhouse Microsoft has partnered with two local tech non profit companies to empower and develop digital solutions for small businesses in the country.

Microsoft has partnered with SAtion and the Empire Partner Foundation to propel small businesses to growth.

In a recent two day coding festival held in Sandton, the global software corporation teamed up with the non profits to challenge young innovators to hack a solution that can assist small to medium enterprises to access new markets, reduce business costs and increase efficiencies and productivity.

The participants were equipped with tools to assess and shape opportunities of launching new projects and ventures.

More than 114 young digital innovators in programming, data science, data engineering, UI-UX, business, finance and marketing from across South Africa took part in solving the challenge.

“Township SMMEs are an integral part of the backbone of communities in South Africa. These SMME provide vital job opportunities and have the potential to make significant contributions to economic growth.

“This Hackathon, sponsored by Microsoft and enabled by Empire Partner and the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundations, is just one way of doing it, and there are so many more catalytic moments to come,” said Mikhial Mariemuthu, a senior manager at EmpirePartner Foundation.

The tech non profits said with the worsening youth unemployment rates in the country, technology was the solution and young people needed to quickly adapt and learn new emerging skills that increase their opportunities to actively participate in the digital economy.

“As South Africa’s biggest most dedicated NPO for digital growth transformation, SAtion is determined to bring together the world’s best – from multinationals to grassroots talent – to bridge our country’s digital divide and grow our 4IR capability,” said Justine Grimmer, SAtion’s programme lead.

A recently released Stats SA Labour Force Survey shows there were 7.8 million jobless South Africans in the second quarter, representing 34.4% of the population – much of them below the age of 35.

The tech non-profits aim to develop young software developers who have viable business ideas with start-ups.

They said the budding innovators with the best business ideas would be enrolled into Empire Foundation student incubator, before being placed in a business accelerator programme.

To date, the foundation has worked with more than 1 000 young developers and has incubated more than 188 solutions.

Mariemuthu said they had also disbursed over R500 000 in prize money in hackathons and had incubated 21 teams at the student hub.

At the recent hackathon, the team Kasi Army, which has young developers such as team leader Nonhlanhla Zembe (29), Sinazo Mona (32), Bongane Mawele (22), Mamello Mofokeng (27) Nkululeko Nkosi (27), Mfundo Ntuli (27) and Alex Thotse (25), took the first prize.

The team’s Kasi Centric solution, which is a WhatsApp Biz bot that collects and reports on customer information (including demographics) and business transactional data, through scanning virtual and physical customer cards.

Shoppers present the virtual or physical card to the vendor to pay for goods and services whilst the vendors scan the card to document customer payments for goods and services purchased.

The team leader explained: “Our tech solution was inspired by our own lived experiences of being in the townships. The situation is dire with high unemployment and with the township economy not being controlled by the township dwellers; the social ills fester and create a hopeless environment. We looked at the problems and worked our way towards a solution,” said Zembe.

Zembe said their idea could provide a solution to help township businesses leverage technology in offering their products and services to their immediate communities.


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