Telkom has announced an investment of over R100 million in enterprise and supplier development with the launch of its FutureMakers programme. According to Telkom, FutureMakers focuses on driving innovation in the ICT sector by growing access to technology and by offering long-term support to its beneficiaries.
“We want to enable, empower and inspire entrepreneurs to stretch their ambitions and make their business visions a reality,” said Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko. “By growing entrepreneurial opportunities within ICT, we can create jobs, improve access to technology and develop a stable and competitive supply chain. FutureMakers serves the national vision for broadband and ICT development, while also supporting our own enterprise and supplier development (ESD) objectives,” Maseko said.
Minister for Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu applauded Telkom for this initiative. “We hope other corporates will emulate Telkom’s example of giving practical expression to the national agenda of building strong and sustainable small businesses and co-operatives that will be engines of economic growth and job creation.”
Minister Zulu added: “To address the triple challenges confronting our nation requires a collective effort. The need to support SMMEs and co-operatives is a responsibility of both government and the private sector. Together, we carry a responsibility to stimulate and support the growth and sustainability of the co-operative and small business sector. Together, we can unlock economic opportunities and thus achieve inclusive economic growth and sustainable employment, particularly for women, youth and people with people with disabilities”.
FutureMakers supports small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) with funding, business development and telecommunications services. It works to identify and grow entrepreneurial opportunities across the ICT industry and within Telkom’s supplier value chains. FutureMakers will leverage Telkom’s own national footprint of products and services, resources, and assets, by providing funding, business support, technology and mentoring.
ICT has been identified in the National Development Plan as a critical enabler, providing opportunities for manufacturing, service provision and job creation. South Africa’s National Broadband Policy calls for mechanisms to share infrastructure, enabling low cost and high quality communication, along with the promotion of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. The FutureMakers programme has been designed to deliver practical and tangible responses to these important national strategic objectives.
The FutureMakers programme comprises four pillars: FutureFund, FutureSource, FutureHub and FutureProof. Through the FutureFund, Telkom is making an initial investment of R100 million to extend financial support to SMMEs that supply Telkom or that work within the broader ICT sector. This funding will be in the form of working capital, loans and equity. Identity Development Fund managers have been appointed to manage the fund on behalf of Telkom.
In parallel with financial support, Telkom is also investing in local suppliers and partners as well as potential suppliers, third party distributors, internet cafes, and innovative ICT start-ups by helping them to become more competitive, through the FutureSource initiative. Entrepreneurs who are part of the FutureSource initiative will receive business development support and training from some of South Africa’s top SMME development providers.
Business incubation services – or FutureHubs – form an integral part of the FutureMakers strategy. FutureHubs provide a platform for stimulating innovation and technology uptake within small businesses. The hubs reduce start-ups costs for new business and encouraging a support of collaborative environment for developing enterprises. Telkom’s longstanding sponsorship of the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town will continue, along with a new programme to source, develop and support high innovation businesses.
Telkom is also investing over R5 million in upgrading a co-working and incubation space in Tshimologong Precinct, Braamfontein, which will be ready in November this year. Tshimologong will be Gauteng’s first business incubator for the ICT industry. It will provide Johannesburg ICT entrepreneurs with access to broadband connectivity, mentoring and other incubation support.
Partnerships, in the form of the FutureProof initiative, form the fourth pillar of the FutureMakers strategy. By actively seeking out opportunities to collaborate with like-minded partners focusing on ICT innovation, FutureMakers will be able to extend its reach and effectiveness. The FutureProof initiative will not only benefit SMMEs but will also stimulate demand for, and productive use of, ICT products and services. By promoting entrepreneurial activity, Telkom is confident South Africa can improve competitiveness and job creation, across the ICT sector.
“We believe that real innovation and transformation within the ICT sector demands a departure from the historically fragmented approaches of the past, towards more inclusive and coordinated ventures. Through the FutureMakers programme we are inviting members of the ICT community to join us as we embark on this exciting journey of transformation,” said Maseko.