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The Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) says it is ready to roll out a network of township digital hubs that President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last month would be set up over the next three years.
Ramaphosa made the announcement during his State of the Nation Address in Parliament in Cape Town earlier last month.
The Presidency has yet to release further details of the township hubs and Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khuselo Diko was not immediately available for comment. But Seda believes that it will oversee the rollout of the hubs.
The agency, which falls under the Department of Small Business Development, already has a network of over 50 business incubators.
It has yet to be confirmed by The Presidency, but Seda believes that it will oversee the roll out of the township tech hubs
Commented Seda spokesman Boy Ndala: “Seda’s understanding is that we will be setting up the tech township hubs in line with our plans submitted to DSBD (the Department of Small Business Development) and in partnership with other role players both government (these he said include the departments of trade and industry and telecommunications and postal services, among others) and the private sector”.
Ndala said the funding for the digital hubs will likely form part of the allocation for Seda’s incubation programme and any other allocation to be made by the Department of Small Business Development.
However, he said Seda is still awaiting details from The Treasury on how much has been budgeted for the initial four hubs, which Ramaphosa indicated would be set up.
Ndala said the four will be located in under serviced provinces, namely Free State, the North West, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. Hubs would later also be established in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga based on the readiness of each of the provinces in line with the agency’s establishment framework, he said.
He said Seda’s idea is that each hub would serve as a feeder hub to the agency’s five existing tech and software incubators (namely Softstart BTI in Gauteng, Smartxchange in KwaZulu-Natal, the French SA Tech Labs in the Western Cape and IHub in the Eastern Cape.
Innovative entrepreneurs with potential would also be further assisted by the Department of Science and Technology’s Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), he added.
He said the new township hubs will have co-working, co-creation spaces, makerspaces and coding labs and will be modelled on curriculum from SA coding academy WeThinkCode and 42 Silicon Valley curriculum.
He said Seda has developed a model built on the Lean Startup philosophy that Seda has been testing over the last three years in the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Rapid Incubation programme in Technical Vocational Education and Training (Tvet) colleges and universities. “The model is built on the ‘fail fast but fail forward’ principle,” he added.
The aim of the hubs is to develop coding and programming skills and to nurture an innovative and creative entrepreneurial culture, he said.
Seda is looking for entrepreneurs and innovators with innovative tech ideas in the area of fintech, agritech, healthytech and other Fourth Industrial Revolution verticals.
Featured image: Street scene in Soweto township, Gauteng (Martyn Smith via Flickr)