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As Brexit looms, UK government looks to support SA startups

SA tech startups can expect added business and trade support from the UK government as it seeks to boost links with other countries amid a looming Brexit.

A key part of this support includes the UK-SA Tech Hub, which was launched in February.

The tech hub is one of several the UK has set up recently — presently in Kenya, Nigeria and Israel — to promote trade links. Plans are afoot to expand the network to other countries.

In South Africa the UK government’s support among other things includes its Digital Access Programme, under which the UK-SA Tech Hub falls.

The UK-SA Tech Hub is one of several the UK has set up recently in a number of countries

The programme focuses on developing new business models, ensuring a safe and secure digital infrastructure, and driving entrepreneurship, to help connect more South Africans to the internet.

‘Supporting SA’s tech ecosystem’

Says UK-SA Tech Hub director Shirley Gilbey: “The primary objective of the work our tech hub does is to support the technology ecosystem in South Africa in ways that reduce poverty and support gender inclusion, whilst also hopefully creating secondary benefits to the UK.

“That could mean, for example, SA startups that successfully grow, scale, and expand their propositions to adapt to more developed markets, such as the UK, have the potential to expand into the UK market,” she told Ventureburn in an email.

She said alternatively, UK-based companies who are looking to help solve some of the big SA challenges — be they in fintech, edtech, healthtech and agritech — would be supported to explore ways to collaborate with SA firms to do so.

More initiatives in pipeline

So far the UK-SA Tech Hub has run a series of initiatives (see the list below) and Gilbey said the tech hub has a number of further initiatives in the pipeline.

Among others, these include its Go Global Africa programme and helping sponsor two or three tech hub alumni to attend London Tech Week.

Other initiatives that are planned include the placement of graduates from established coding school programmes in companies which aims to launch in October, a masterclass for women entrepreneurs due to start this month, support for a Future Females business school programme and a programme for alumni from the tech hub’s various activities.

Later this year the tech hub will also host the semi-finals of the Global Edtech Start-up Awards (GESA) for Southern Africa, ahead of the finals in London, January next year.

Three SA ventures will be awarded with flights and accommodation to attend the global finale of the competition, says Gilbey.

She lists the initiatives that the tech hub has so far run as:

Global Edtech Start-up Awards 2019: The tech hub hosted the semi-finals of the Global Edtech Start-up Awards (GESA) for Southern Africa. GESA is the world’s largest edtech startup competition that identifies, showcases and recognises the world’s most promising EdTech startups. Two SA startups — edtech Snapplify and Zomila (formerly known as Zelda Learning) won a spot to attend the global finale of the competition, in London during January (see this story).

Skills development co-creation workshop: The tech hub hosted a workshop in Cape Town with local business support organisations within the tech sector to co-create a selection of pilot models for its first-year pilot that will see digitally upskilled youth placed into entrepreneurial activity streams. The pilot kicks off in October.

DreamCode pilot: This diagnostic year-long pilot programme, funded by the FCO, looked to improve the employability of 30 unemployed female youth through the upskilling of digital literacy and coding skills. Post-pilot, 80% of the participants are now employed, have started their own business, enrolled into further training or are undergoing job interviews within the tech and ICT sector (See this video).

Future Females pilot: In partnership with Future Females Business School, 56 aspiring female entrepreneurs commenced a three-month programme providing the entrepreneurial skills needed to register and launch their businesses (see this video and this story). A follow-on programme will be launched this month.

Africa Tech Week: The Department for International Trade and the UK-SA Tech Hub in May co-hosted a reception at Africa Tech Week, in Cape Town, where they jointly presented an award for the best technology startup and the Africa tech woman of the year with a hosted trip to London Tech Week.

London Tech Week: The Department for International Trade and UK-SA Tech Hub in June sponsored Africa Tech Week Awards winners, Siddika Osman of Nkgwete IT Solutions and Matt Brown of Digital Kungfu to attend London Tech Week 2019 (see this story and this one).

Go Global Africa 2019: The tech hub sponsored seven startups from South Africa and 13 other early-stage startup founders from Kenya and Nigeria for a two week immersive learning experience in London (see this story and this video). The programme focused on market expansion skills, learning and network building. The Go GlobalAfrica 2019 alumni (see this blog post) are now engaged in a series of workshops and insights sessions to share their knowledge and experience of the programme back into the wider community.

Ladies who Launch – A conversation series: Launched in May, the “Ladies who Launch” quarterly dinner series was started in Cape Town. The goal of the series is to connect aspiring and inspiring female founders and promote the growing number of female angel investors in the sector. Ben Boddy, Consul General, hosted the inaugural event, with 65 men and women in attendance.

Featured image: Free-Photos via Pixabay

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