Not only do tech-based SMMEs need entry to markets, but also an innovative space to grow and develop through world-class support. This is why tech conglomerate Cisco has partnered with the Fourth Industrial Revolution Incubator (4IRI) and the Small Enterprise Development Agency on an SMME hub, which was recently launched in Cape Town.
Other hubs have been opened in Tshwane and the Dube Trade Port in KwaZulu-Natal. The Experience, Design, Go to Market and Earn Centre, otherwise known as the EDGE Centre, seeks to provide SMMEs with cutting-edge technology and training, and programmes that are in line with the National Development Plan. Charmaine Houvet, who is the public policy director for Africa at Cisco, said that the centre would see Cisco and the 4IRI combine forces and knowledge to prepare and develop SMMEs for the digital age.
“It will not only help speed up SMMEs entry to market but (will) also contribute to creating much-needed jobs in the Western Cape,” she said at the launch. “We have developed this centre to provide SMMEs with an innovative space where they can grow.” Houvet said the centres, which Cisco was planning to expand to Limpopo and the North West, were more just than ensuring the right technology was in place.
“It creates a connection for the community where they will have access to information resources,” she explained. “It also forges opportunities to be part of the digital economy and get much-needed skills for digitisation.” The centre was an investment in skills development and education, which would unlock more opportunities for communities across the Western Cape, so the ripple effect was expected to be felt beyond SMMEs.
Speaking at the launch, Small Business Development Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that SMMEs and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) presented an opportunity to transform this economy. She commended “progressive collaboration” to provide incubation services to SMMEs in networking, cybersecurity, fintech and insurtech.
“It is through partnerships with organisations like 4IRI that we can hold our young entrepreneurs by the hand, nurture and support them to grow to be sustainable businesses that contribute to our country’s GDP,” the minister said. “Government’s intention is to place small businesses in South Africa as the anchor for economic growth and greater transformation, unlocking opportunities for small businesses in the value chains of the highly-monopolised sectors of our economy.”
4IRI VEO Naomi Musi agreed that the partnership would enable Western Cape SMMEs to participate meaningfully in 4IR. “We will help these budding inventors and entrepreneurs to develop into successful leaders of industry and create an enabling environment for the youth of tomorrow to be part of the information economy,” Musi said.