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AWS Aims to Propel Black-Owned Tech Start-Ups

In a move to bolster South Africa’s burgeoning technology sector, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is doubling down on its efforts to nurture and support Black-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through its Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP).

The programme, which has already incubated and developed 27 SMEs since its inception in 2020, aims to add another 20 success stories to its 2024 cohort, with a particular focus on empowering female and youth entrepreneurs.

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Although there is an increased internet penetration, technology adoption and availability of venture capital funding across Africa, a Startup Genome survey highlights a concerning gender gap for tech startups on the sub-continent with only 15% of founders being women.

“These SMEs are critical drivers of our economic future,” said Chris Erasmus, Country Manager at AWS South Africa. “As a major player in cloud, we have a duty to work with our customers to empower growth from within, going all the way from funding, to training, to business development.”

The EEIP is an 18-to-24-month Partner Acceleration Programme designed to assist Black SMEs in launching their businesses on the AWS cloud and cloud computing services. Successful applicants become part of a global cohort of over 120,000 AWS Partner Network (APN) businesses, gaining access to Amazon’s systems, skills, and knowledge, as well as local and international market opportunities.

The programme has already helped secure over 150 jobs for South African youth, a significant contribution to the country’s economic development.

One of the programme’s standout success stories is One Linkage, a female-founded SME that achieved APN Advanced Tier Partner status in less than one year on the programme. Hepsy Mkhungo, Founder and CEO of One Linkage, praised the EEIP’s impact, saying, “Non-tech founders like me are empowered with sufficient technical knowledge required to engage in strategic decisions regarding solutions being built. I deliberately used the opportunity provided by AWS’ EEIP to level the playing field and bring credibility to the solutions we build for our customers.”

Collectively, AWS EEIP partners have achieved over 603 AWS certifications, 1,032 AWS accreditations, and have grown their revenue by an average of 126% since joining the programme. Many have already developed distinctive service offerings, such as AWS Media & Entertainment Services, Amazon Relational Database Service Delivery Programmes, and AWS IoT Serverless designs.

Applications for the 2024 EEIP cohort are now open until April 12, 2024, and can be submitted here. Preference will be given to start-ups that are female-owned and -managed, in support of the Digital Collective Africa’s gender diversity pledge to empower female entrepreneurs.

As technology continues to drive the global economy, initiatives like AWS’ EEIP are crucial in fostering an inclusive and diverse ecosystem of innovative entrepreneurs, particularly in regions where access to funding and support remains a significant barrier.

Read next: AWS announces funding boost for women founders in Africa


Featured image by Brendon Petersen

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