Article by Vodacom World
Unlocking economic opportunities that will drive inclusive economic growth and sustainable employment, particularly for small businesses in South Africa, is a commitment that Vodacom holds dear to its core, and essentially forms part of the organisation’s make up.
This commitment has seen Vodacom play an integral role in implementing customised solutions to support small-to-medium-and-macro-sized enterprises (SMMEs), which according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2018) create more than 50% of employment opportunities in South Africa.
Kick-starting SMME growth through Silulo Incubation Centre
To further bolster their contribution to employment, and in turn, the economy, Vodacom Business, in 2018, launched the Silulo Business Incubation Centre (SBI), in partnership with Silulo Ulutho Technologies.
Backed by Vodacom Business’ expansive product suite, and a technology-led approach – the Silulo Business Incubation Centre aims to transform and empower South African township-based entrepreneurs through digitisation.
The first Incubation Centre was launched in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, to empower the community (as well as broader surrounding areas) to become fully digitised and therefore equipped with the know-how, capabilities, and tools to enhance the productivity of their businesses.
The centres include dedicated receptionists, a working desk, Wi-Fi access, access to meeting rooms and training and networking events.
Empowering black-owned companies
Vodacom aspires to connect the connected, more so people living in rural parts of South Africa. The lack of coverage in these rural parts of the country prompted Vodacom to look at ways of addressing this national shortcoming, at the same time empower up-and-coming SMEs within the telco space. To achieve this, the mobile network operator underwent a tender issuing process, in 2017, to appoint suppliers to build, deploy and eventually go on to own deep rural coverage sites in South Africa. This tender would be based on a lease back scenario for nine years and 11 months.
Fast forward to 2019, and Vodacom has appointed four suppliers, all SMMEs with 100% black ownership, as “Towerco” entities. The lease agreements were signed in 2019, and to date, six sites have been built, creating more than 250 job opportunities. The project has been a massive success, with rural and deep rural 4G coverage extended to over 16 million people. All while helping black-owned SMEs become proud cellphone tower owners.
Connecting smallholder female farmers to greater agriculture value chain
Vodacom realises that women play a key role in South Africa’s agriculture sector – a sector that contributes towards the country’s food security, job creation and mitigation of poverty, all of which work towards growing the country’s economy.
Africa’s agriculture sector accounts for 65% of the continent’s employment and 75% of domestic trade. Whilst in South Africa, agriculture remains a significant provider of employment, more especially in the country’s rural areas – employing roughly 700 000 workers.
With this in mind, the mobile network operator introduced a training and digital literacy programme, called the Vodacom’s Female Farmers Programme, which makes use of technology to transform the lives of female farmers, by enabling them to link digital tools to the day-to-day running of their smallholder farming businesses.
Using social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), the programme enables female farmers to reach out to the outside world, and promote their farm produces. By providing these farmers with digital platforms, they gain a platform that they can use to establish themselves as valuable contributors to the South African agriculture industry.
The training enables the farmers to access information on how to market their produce online, access services and communicate with farmers across the world. To date, 450 female farmers received ICT training. The ultimate goal is to use technology to link female farmers to markets and assist them to participate meaningfully in the economy.
Connecting SMMEs to future growth
By empowering South Africa’s SMME sector, Vodacom strives to circumvent the effects and obstacles that hinder small business growth, more especially during the early years of SMME’s establishment. In doing so, the mobile network operator can ensure they gain enough support and funding opportunities to generate enough revenue to help keep afloat in tandem with employing more people and ultimately boosting the country’s economy.
Vodacom realises that this feat will require an industry-wide effort. One that will result in every business, big or small, being awarded the opportunity to benefit from the digital tools and resources required for success and growth.