Building a Township Tech hub

Part II: SAP Social Sabbatical Partners to Shape Cape Town’s Future

This is part two in a series highlighting the SAP Social Sabbatical for global engagement in Cape Town, South Africa, which focused on bridging the digital divide in the city’s most underserved communities. Stay tuned for part III, out next week. Read part one here.

Climbing the wooden staircase to the top of Lookout Hill, one finds sweeping panoramic views of the Cape Flats area skirting Cape Town. Khayelitsha, the second-largest and fastest-growing township in South Africa, sprawls to the east; the township of Mitchell’s Plain rolls to the west. At the base of the hill, strategically situated between these two underserved communities, is the Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn, a startup incubator and accelerator serving community entrepreneurs.

The Barn is an activity of Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), an almost 20-year-old NGO focused on building digital skills and spurring entrepreneurship throughout Cape Town. CiTi launched the Barn two years ago to foster inclusive economic growth in the Township communities. Twelve years ago, Luvuyo Rani started his digital services business from the back of his car. Today, entrepreneurs like Luvuyo, can launch their business with the support, resources, and facilities offered by the Barn.

Three SAP employees worked with CiTi for one month to develop a sustainability strategy for the Khayelitsha Barn.

The Barn serves a critical role for the community where 66 percent of black graduates are unemployed. The Barn seeks to provide young people with the professional resources required beyond a high school diploma, including mentoring, access to professional networks, physical infrastructure, reliable equipment, and career training. SAP sent a team of three high performing employees from across the globe to work with the Barn for a one-month Social Sabbatical for global engagement assignment. The employees were tasked with applying their skills and expertise to build the capacity of the Barn to better serve their stakeholders to drive digital access in Cape Town.

The Barn wears many hats in the community, providing residents with fully equipped computer labs, meeting rooms, and function space. The facility also offers reliable internet connectivity in an area where broadband access is rare. Skilled and experienced staff deliver intensive enterprise and skills development programs for aspiring entrepreneurs. The Barn also fosters a much needed work space for the community, where entrepreneurs and innovators can come together to connect, brainstorm, and ideate. One hundred percent of the organizations served by the Khayelitsha Barn are black-owned businesses – a large proportion of which are youth and or women-owned.

“We provide an environment where likeminded professionals can network, integrate, and work with one another,” said Fezeka Mavuso who manages Business Development for the Barn. “The Barn fosters a collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit.”

“We provide an environment where likeminded professionals can network, integrate, and work with one another. The Barn fosters a collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Three SAP employees from the United Kingdom, India, and the Czech Republic worked with CiTi to develop a sustainability strategy for the Barn, which is facing significant reduction in government funding.

“Our main goal is to find the right messaging for the Khayelitsha Barn. The Barn is doing great things, but without the ability to showcase their work and their benefit to the community, they cannot secure future funding,” said Anja Isek, an HR specialist from SAP Czech Republic.

For four weeks, the participants worked to identify the Barn’s unique selling points and turn their findings into a comprehensive value proposition for potential partners. “Our participation in the SAP Social Sabbatical program has been an eye opener… the team really affirmed for us that we need to get our marketing right,” said Fezeka. “Through this experience, we have faced the reality that we have a strong story to tell… we have the history, the high success rate, and the track record — the team helped us package that story to share with the world.”

SAP Social Sabbatical Participant Mohammed Ismail finalizes the communications strategy for CiTi’s Bandwith Barn in Khayalitsha.

“The impact of the Barn in Khayelitsha is enormous. The Barn has a strong service offering and an exemplary success rate,” said Mohammed Ismail a Solutions Engineer from SAP London. “This is a great facility that deserves to continue offering youth and local entrepreneurs with opportunities to develop and thrive in their community and beyond.”

“This is a great facility that deserves to continue offering youth and local entrepreneurs with opportunities to develop and thrive in their community and beyond.”

Actually, opportunities to develop and thrive best describe the outcome for everyone engaged in the SAP Social Sabbatical for global engagement in Cape Town.

With its funding in jeopardy and little time to change course, CiTi’s Bandwidth Barn now has the tools to transform their legacy of results into a new strategy that will enable future stability and success for its entrepreneurs. And for the SAP employees on the Social Sabbatical, the extraordinary obstacles to people and business in the Cape Town communities – so far afield from what they typically find in traditional digital commerce – challenged them in ways they never anticipated.

Stay tuned for part III on how SAP is working to support education in Cape Town.

 

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