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Southern Africa looks to bolster tech trade with Innovation Bridge initiative

South Africa’s Director-General of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Dr Phil Mjwara has implored African nations to align their development efforts with technology.

Mjwara was speaking at the launch of the Innovation Bridge Portal, a government-driven initiative and collaboration between Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa, to improve entrepreneurial development in Africa.

The initiative is spearheaded by the South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and Department of Small Business Development (DSBD), in partnership with the World Bank, to enrich the continent’s business and technology ecosystem.

The initiative also serves to promote collaboration among public and private ecosystem stakeholders to become that ‘one-stop shop’ repository for information, opportunity, and networks, as well as economic growth and job creation.

At the launch, 14 start-up entrepreneurs from Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa pitched ideas in the hope of attracting funding, mentorship, coaching and networking opportunities.

Mjwara stressed the importance of creating “a very vibrant start-up community” and “supporting young entrepreneurs with business ideas”.

Over the past months the Innovation Bridge team engaged various ecosystem partners in providing targeted support for underserved entrepreneurs through a hybrid business incubation training and mentorship program that allowed these entrepreneurs to reflect and critique their respective business models and identify and address skills and knowledge gaps systematically.

Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa said: “This is certainly possible in the Southern Africa region given the wealth of talent and resources in the ecosystem.”

Marie-Nelly emphasized the need to work together to strengthen the ecosystem and remove existing policy and regulatory bottlenecks.

Deputy Minister of Small Business and Development Sdumo Dlamini said small businesses were at the centre of South Africa’s economic recovery and that the government was working hard through the Presidency, to reduce red tape in doing business in South Africa.

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