SA biotech start-up AzarGen announced yesterday that it is developing a drug that has the potential to help patients suffering from one of the life-threating symptoms of Covid-19. It’s now looking for funding and support.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Small business minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, yesterday revealed details of a support package for businesses in the informal sector.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
SA biotech startup AzarGen is developing a drug that might help patients suffering from Covid-19 and is now looking for funding and support
Here then is the latest on the coronavirus and African tech startups:
SMS marketing platform nets $1m: Mobiz, a SA SMS marketing engagement platform, yesterday announced that it has raised $1-million from SA venture capital (VC) firm Kalon Venture Partners, as part of a $2-million pre-Series A round. The Cape Town based startup’s platform — which is currently used by large companies such as Home Choice, the Lewis Group, Multichoice and Momentum — allows clients to send customers personalised SMS’s, in much the same way as users are able to send marketing emails via MailChimp. The startup’s co-founder Greg Chen says the startup has seen revenue surge of late as firms shift to using SMS messaging over phone calls and emails, because of Covid-19 (see this story).
SA biotech developing Covid-19 drug: Stellenbosch-based biotech startup AzarGen announced yesterday that it has accelerated efforts to further develop a drug that has the potential to help patients suffering from one of the life-threating symptoms of Covid-19, namely Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The therapeutic candidate, SynSurf, developed by researchers at Stellenbosch University, has been tested in pre-clinical trials. AzarGen, is currently supported by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), and is looking for partners to help fund the further development and commercialisation of the drug and with regulatory approval and entry into the market. “The hope is there that this product will be an effective asset in assisting patients,” said Dr Mauritz Venter, AzarGen CEO. “However, funding and manufacturing will set the pace of how quickly this can happen.”
SA informal sector support: South Africa’s Small business minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, yesterday revealed details of a support packages for those in the informal sector, the government’s news agency SAnew.gov reported. These include the spaza shop support scheme, which will also open tomorrow (2 April). To qualify informal businesses will need to be licensed. See more details here.
Fraudulent certificates for essential services: The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) has cancelled fraudulent certificates allowing companies to trade as essential services during the 21-day national lockdown, the government’s news agency SAnew.gov reported in an article yesterday. The businesses had applied for the certificates via the CIPC’s Biz Portal. The Department of Trade and Industry said the businesses will be handed over to the police for further investigation and potential prosecution.
‘Don’t shift burden to employees’: SA’s Labour minister Thulas Nxesi has called on employers not to shift the burden of the coronavirus onto workers, reported Fin24 in an article yesterday. He said some employees are being made to work during SA’s lockdown even though they are not regarded as essential service providers, while many employers are putting employees on annual leave. While employers are entitled to put employees on leave, the department says employers should rather seek financial assistance through its Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), if they cannot afford to pay staff.
R2.4bn in tax refunds paid: The South African Revenue Service (Sars) said in a statement yesterday that it had paid out tax refunds to businesses totalling R2.4-billion over the first four days of the country’s lockdown, which began last Friday. The refunds comprise payments to large business amounting to R1.1-billion and payments to small businesses amounting to R1.3-billion.
Section 12J head appeal: In a letter to government, SA’s largest Section 12J (S12J) manager, Westbrooke Alternative Asset Management, has asked the Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni to help fast-track emergency amendments to the Section 12J legislation so that up to R6-billion of investor capital can be more speedily invested in small firms during the Coronavirus pandemic. Dino Zuccollo, principal at Westbrooke and chairman of the Section 12J Industry Association of SA said most of this R6-billion in capital was raised over the past 12 to 13 months, and it takes time to make equity investments into a large number of small businesses, “especially during periods of elevated risk and uncertainty”.
Read more: Covid-19 and African tech startups roundup [31/03/2020]
Read more: Covid-19 and African tech startups roundup [30/03/2020]
Read more: Covid-19 and African tech startups roundup [27/03/2020]
Read more: Covid-19 and African tech startups roundup [26/03/2020]
Read more: Covid-19 and African tech startups roundup [25/03/2020]
Read more: Covid-19 and African tech startups roundup [24/03/2020]
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