In an attempt to get 1 million small businesses online by 2016, industry leaders are collaborating to support young entrepreneurs through Microsoft’s Biz4Afrika and Student2Business initiatives.
Microsoft launched Biz4Arika in 2013, and it is currently being rolled out across South Africa.
The initiative – a partnership between Microsoft, the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) and mobile operator Vodacom – provides skills and services to local small businesses.
According to Tracey Newman, Microsoft South Africa’s small business lead, many small businesses do not have access to modern technology and are still using old hardware and software, which negatively impacts their productivity in a digital world.
“Just having an own website can radically increase a startup’s chances of success, and internet access opens up new borders and markets to help it with new customer acquisition,” says Newman.
The range of cloud-based tools and services that Microsoft offers through Biz4Afrika provide small businesses with easy and cost-effective access to modern technology that they require to operate at their maximum potential.
Newman says this initiative was launched after a study by the Boston Consulting Group revealed that tech-savvy startups have created twice as many new jobs and grew revenues 15% faster over the past three years than small businesses using little technology. She says having access to the right technology can level the playing field for small businesses, helping them compete against much larger players.
As part of the programme, and in collaboration with the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT Seta) and Solver Consulting, Microsoft will also place one intern in each of Seda’s 42 centres nationwide.
“Interns need to be on the unemployed MICT Seta database, from a previously disadvantaged background, have an National Qualification Framework Level five qualification, and be an attitudinal match to a business advisor benchmark. Four additional interns will also support online queries from small businesses, where they will receive on-the-job training on technology, connectivity and retail, among other areas. The goal is for these interns to become small business and technology advisors.”
Newman says the aim was also to grow skills in the South African marketplace by taking 46 unemployed people over a one-year period and providing them with on-the-job training relating to business, such as administration, financial management, marketing, sales and other relevant skills.
During the first year, entrepreneurs will receive assistance in getting their businesses online, by being provided with a free .co.za domain, a free website and free email and collaboration tools.
The MICT Seta and the Jobs Fund support the initiative by paying the students’ stipends.
The NSBC provides the relevant and updated content on the subscriber base, and Vodacom provides businesses with free connectivity solutions and training to startups and interns.
Seda provides training to interns on starting and growing their small businesses as well as an opportunity to shadow Seda business advisors at the 42 branches country-wide.