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Entrepreneurs in developed countries like the United States and Western Europe typically start with a brilliant idea. Aspiring innovators in developing countries like South Africa begin their journey by figuring out how to gain access to a computer and the internet, and learning how to use them. The stark contrast between two dramatically different worlds only underscores the incredible odds faced by ambitious youth in South Africa who are determined to succeed.

This is a country where the road to personal success directly impacts the entire community. According to Dalberg Global Development Advisors, businesses with fewer than five employees represent 94% of small businesses in South Africa. Ahmed Ishmael, founding Director at Siyafunda Community Technology Centres (CTC), calls small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) the backbone of the country. “If people have access to the internet they can research new opportunities, correspond with suppliers, get training, and access e-government services to comply with regulations and grow their business,” he reasons.

Not surprisingly, partnerships between the public and private sector are the lifeblood of organizations like Siyafunda CTC, which is supported by SAP donations and volunteers. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote that details how this important group is making a tremendous difference. Click here to reach the full article.

“With funding and hands-on support from founding partner SAP, Siyafunda has opened 50 community knowledge centres, reaching thousands of people—youths, the unemployed, women, people with disabilities--in search of a better future. For many, the centres offer them the first opportunity they’ve ever had to
access a computer and the internet.”

At the Centres, youths can study e-learning modules including the Microsoft Digital Literary Curriculum, as well as take accredited courses in both business and entrepreneurial andtechnical skills. Ishmael told me that a high percentage of graduates find jobs or go on to establish sustainable businesses. In some cases, results hit close to home. This past year, after participating in a sustainable business training program, four managers became owners of the Centres in which they trained.

Advancements that most western countries have as a matter of course are not necessarily the norm in places like South Africa. It can be difficult to imagine not having affordable, relatively easy access to the internet or a public education system that teaches computer skills. Or even ready access to computers. Conversations with dedicated people like Ishmael illustrate the reality. “The idea is to build facilities that give people in marginalized communities important connectivity,” says Ishmael. “We help take people out of hopelessness and unlock their potential.”

More and more would-be entrepreneurs are beginning their journey with training from Siyafunda CTC. All they need is access to the right technologies, training, and information to get started. Now that’s a brilliant idea.

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