Covid-19 and African tech startups roundup [25/03/2020]

As South Africa heads for a lockdown set to start at midnight tomorrow, the government revealed more details on financial support for small businesses.

This, while two SA billionaires have pledged to donate R2-billion to support small firms and their workers.

With the coronavirus (Covid-19) headlining news all over the world, Ventureburn has launched a regular daily roundup on the virus and how it is affecting Africa’s tech startup sector.

Those with any news releases relating to Covid-19 and Africa’s tech startup sector can send these to

As SA heads for a lockdown due to Covid-19, the government revealed more details on financial support for small businesses

Here then is the latest on the coronavirus and African tech startups:

Open or closed for co-working?: It was uncertain yesterday whether one of SA’s leading co-working site, Workshop 17 would completely close or not during South Africa’s 21-day lockdown set to commence at midnight tomorrow. While at least two other co-working organisation have closed already, Workshop 17 may still stay open, at least for those performing essential services, such as power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services and others (see this story).

Silicon Cape Covid-19 resources: Cape Town based tech initiative Silicon Cape has launched a resources tab to keep startups informed of how to deal with Covid-19, after receiving a number of queries regarding the resources available to both startups and SMEs on the coronavirus, the organisation said in a tweet yesterday.

Call to complete SME survey: SME funder Edge Growth has called on entrepreneurs to complete a five-minute survey to help it to gather data on the impact Covid-19 in South Africa is having on small businesses to help the organisation to advocate government and corporates for the right support.

More African lockdowns: Following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday that South Africa would start a lockdown on Thursday midnight to curb the spread of the coronavirus, a number of other Africans have since announced similar measures, Business Day reported in an article yesterday. These include Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Namibia, Senegal and Ivory Coast. Tunisia began a lockdown on Sunday (22 March), while Egypt yesterday announced the start of a two-week curfew.

R2-billion for small business: Two of South Africa’s richest families, the Oppenheimers and the Ruperts, will each donate R1-billion to assist small businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus, Business Insider reported in an article yesterday. The Rupert’s contribution would likely be channelled by small business financier Business Partners, which entrepreneur Johann Rupert (pictured above) co-owns, Business Day said in an article yesterday.

Funding site down: As of this morning the Department of Small Business’s website, where business owners affected by the coronavirus can apply for funding, is down. A notice on the site reads: “We are performing a critical update and will resume the service shortly. We apologise for the inconvenience, we will be back soon.” After Ventureburn experienced slow loading times during a visit to the website early yesterday, the site went down. Yesterday afternoon the department reported in a tweet on Twitter yesterday that the site back up. However, it is now down again.

SME funding explained: The government yesterday provided more details of funding and financial relief that it would extend to small firms struggling during the coronavirus, Business Day reported in an article yesterday. Small Business Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the department’s financial assistance (see this story) would be extended to all businesses, irrespective of whether companies are majority black-owned or not. Firms must be 100% South African owned and employ 70% South African workers to benefit, however. Meanwhile, for businesses with a turnover of less than R50-million a year, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) will relax pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) liabilities over the next four months. In addition, the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa) would introduce a payment holiday for a maximum of six months for those that had loans from the agency, while the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) will offer R3-billion in funding for industrial support.

Apps and Girls challenges: Apps and Girls, a Tanzanian social enterprise that aims to help and promote girls keen on technology, has on Monday (23 March) launched a 30-day Covid-19 challenge. The organisation said in a tweet that it wants to get Tanzanian youths to “use technology, creativity, curiosity and innovation-mindset to come up with different innovations which will help the government, health workers and everyone battling the epidemic”.

Free medical consultations: Egyptian healthtech Vezeeta is offering a free medical consultation service for those experiencing flu-like symptoms, tech publication MenaBytes reported in an article on Saturday (21 March). The service is available in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In February the company, which was founded in 2012 by Amir Barsoum, announced it had raised $40-million in a Series-D round (see this story). Egypt yesterday announced a two-week 6pm to 7am curfew in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

Read more: Covid-19 and African tech startups roundup [24/03/2020]

Featured image: SA entrepreneur and billionaire Johann Rupert (Facebook)



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