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The New Economy Accelerator (NEA), an SA initiative aimed at boosting economic inclusion, is today showcasing its second cohort at an exhibition currently under away at the Mothisbistad Multi-purpose Centre in Kuruman, in the Northern Cape.
The investor showcase aims to connect local entrepreneurs with potential investors and key stakeholders. The organisers hope the showcase will also connect NEA participants with supplier development programmes that will help the startups scale their enterprises and create jobs.
The New Economy Accelerator has worked with 20 enterprises and its convener claims these have collectively created up to 200 jobs
Founded in 2013, the NEA aims to accelerate high-impact enterprises that promote inclusive business practices.
Over the last nine months of the current cohort, the accelerator — an initiative of the African Centre for a Green Economy (AfriGCE) — has been on a mission to build an inclusive economy and promote environmental sustainability in rural economies.
“The NEA is inspired by principles of the new economy, which is underpinned by the concepts of co-production, crowd-sourcing, local networks and alternative forms of exchange of goods and services among others,” NEA Convener Mao Amis (pictured) told Ventuburn in an e-mail interview.
Amis said the NEA provides early-stage businesses with basic business development training. He said the focus of the accelerator is on starups working in six sectors, namely: food, transport, energy, water, housing and information technology.
In addition, the entrepreneurs have to demonstrate that their businesses abide to the principles of innovative forms of ownership, community upliftment and environmental sustainability.
‘Re-Imagining rural economies in South Africa’
“The focus of the last programme was specifically on accelerating entrepreneurs operating in rural economies in South Africa, linked to the renewable energy belt of the Northern Cape,” said Amis.
“We ran a challenge entitled “Re-imagining rural economies in South Africa”. We received more than 60 applications, 13 people were invited to an intensive four-day bootcamp, out of which 10 were selected to form part of the cohort,” he added.
Only three of the startups in NEA’s second cohort are tech startups. These are: Digiticket SA an online ticket booking platform, renewable energy company Gamagara Cape Solar and Lamo Fuel a biofuels startup.
How it works
The accelerator programme is free and participants do not have to give up equity to the accelerator –since NEA is a non-profit.
“Funding for the programme is from the generous support of donors in South Africa and overseas. The last year’s programme was funded by Sishen Solar Facility as part of their local economic development initiative in the Northern Cape,” said Amis.
The accelerator’s programme is designed to enable entrepreneurs to tighten the business models to attract potential investments and increase productivity. Topics covered include: business model innovation, marketing and sales, value chain mapping, financial models, and operational plans.
“The NEA programme was designed as a structured programme to support and grow micro-enterprises that have strong community linkages, either through providing services to the community or are operating in the community,” said Amis.
Growing global award winners, creating jobs
Amis believes NEA’s impact is significant. He said that since 2015, the accelerator has helped 20 businesses. He claims that the early-stage enterprises have gone on to create 200 jobs.
Earlier this year in March, one of the programme’s entrepreneurs from KwaZulu Natal, Nonhlanhla Joye was selected as this year’s global winner of the Impact2 Award.
Joye’s startup Umgibe Farming Organics developed an eco-friendly Frugal Climate Smart system for growing organic vegetables using recycled plastic bags.
Another NEA participant, Kuruman-based ticketing platform DigiTicket SA, landed a deal with Ackermans and PEP stores in June.
Amis said the accelerator plans to expand outside South Africa, starting with Uganda next year. “Due to the huge demand for the programme, we will also be experimenting with an online version of the initiative in 2018,” he said.
Featured image: NEA Convener Mao Amis (Supplied)