Amazon to incubate black entrepreneurs as part of R365m equity equivalent initiative [Updated]

Correction (11 November): Amazon Web Services today clarified in a statement that its newly launched equity equivalent investment programme aims to support 100% black-owned small businesses in the IT sector.

The original story, syndicated from the SA government’s news agency SAnews, had it that 100 black entrepreneurs would benefit. AWS did not clarify in its statement today how many businesses are set to benefit from the programme. This, while AWS public relations official Elihle Obi last week declined to provide the number to Ventureburn.

In the statement today AWS said the initiative will run for seven years and that AWS will support the black-owned small businesses through an 18 to 24-month enterprise development and incubation programme.

AWS will provide training and technical expertise in cloud computing resulting in new AWS Certified Developers and Solutions Architects.

The training will include the development of skills in advanced technologies such as cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning (ML), mobile technologies and more.

Participants will receive exposure to industry leaders, coaching, mentorship, and funding to help take their business to the next stage of growth. As these businesses complete their training, and gain AWS competencies, they will go up a tier in the APN, becoming Select or Advanced Partners.

Upon completion of the programme, these businesses will have access to AWS’s ecosystem of millions of active customers, of every size, across virtually every industry around the world successful completion of the programme will also enable the businesses to have exposure to opportunities beyond that of AWS.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have signed an agreement that will see 100% black-owned small businesses in the IT sector getting support from Amazon.

Signed yesterday on the sidelines of the SA Investment Conference, the agreement will see Amazon invest R365-million in the department’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) equity equivalent investment programme.

The fund will be invested in the development of 100% black-owned SA small businesses within the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector.

The agreement will see 100 black businesses be brought into the Amazon Web Services supply chain

Multinationals which are unable to sell equity to black partners under the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) codes, because their global practice or policy does not permit it, are allowed to use equity equivalent programmes as an alternative, upon approval from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The department’s director general Lionel October said Amazon has over the last five years made significant investment in data services in South Africa. “They have shown their confidence,” he said.

During last year’s conference, the company announced it would be building data centres in Southern Africa.

“That investment has now been made… Early next year, (Amazon) will be launching their cloud computer from South Africa. We are interested both industrialisation and transformation, bringing in black entrepreneurs and black women owned businesses into the mainstream economy.

Amazon to incubate black entrepreneurs

“Under this (agreement signed today), 100 black businesses will be brought into the Amazon Web Services supply chain. (Amazon) will incubate black entrepreneurs into the Amazon stable. That is how we do real empowerment.

“Amazon is building three data centres along the coast in the Western Cape, however, the black entrepreneurs programme will be across the country. They’ve met the first group of interns but it’s open for all entrepreneurs to join,” October said.

Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel welcomed the development, saying the government could not have asked for a better company to spearhead the project.

Amazon vice president of worldwide public sector, Teresa Carlson, said the venture is a long-term project.

“I’m sure we’ll find many other ways to work together and prosper,” she said. –

Read more: IBM opens nominations for black tech firms with its Techscale programme
Read more: Not all tech giants operating in SA offer support tailored to black startups
Read more: IBM programme opened my eyes to new possibilities, says tech entrepreneur

This article appeared originally on SAnews, the South African government’s news agency, on 6 November, see it here



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