South Africa's technology companies have an opportunity to gain international exposure and access to global markets following the launch of an exciting new initiative, the Irish Tech Challenge South Africa.
A collaboration between the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), and Impact Amplifier, the call for applications was officially opened on 24 February by Colm Brophy, Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora in the Government of Ireland.
Speaking at the launch event, Minister Brophy said initiatives like the Tech Challenge were important for future development and generations to come "to create new connections, new bridges, and new opportunities between our peoples".
"We see a great opportunity for partnerships in sectors that support economic and social progress, such as clean-tech, agri-tech, med-tech and education-tech. We also see an opportunity in the Tech Challenge to engage with our diaspora communities, working in the tech sector in both Ireland and South Africa," Minister Brophy added.
The Irish Tech Challenge South Africa aims to create mutually beneficial partnerships between Irish tech expertise and South African tech entrepreneurs to help drive innovation, job creation and inclusive economic growth in South Africa.
More importantly, the Tech Challenge is keen to accelerate high-potential tech entrepreneurs in South Africa who are ready to scale globally and enhance their impact but face challenges such as limited resources and lack of access to the appropriate global networks and infrastructure. Primary consideration will be given to businesses owned and run by women, youth, and members of historically disadvantaged communities, although all tech entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply before 5 April.
Other speakers at the event included Dr Mlungisi Cele, Acting Head of the National Advisory Council on Innovation, Patrick Krappie, Acting CEO of TIA, and Fionnuala Gilsenan, Ambassador of Ireland to South Africa.
Welcoming the initiative, and the fact that women and young people have been prioritised, Dr Cele said this was particularly relevant as Africa has a young population. "This is a dividend, and if exploited appropriately, as a continent we can expedite our progress that would otherwise not have been possible. We look forward to seeing some of the successful young tech entrepreneurs ploughing back and ensuring that our system is able to grow."
Up to five tech entrepreneurs will embark on a fully funded 10-day curated business networking programme in Ireland, one of the world's fastest-growing tech hubs, where they will access the expertise of Irish tech leaders, get the opportunity to build their networks in Ireland, Europe and South Africa, and receive funding support of up to €10 000 each.
The Irish Ambassador to South Africa, Ms Gilsenan, said: "All across South Africa, there is enormous entrepreneurial potential and creativity, particularly in the tech space. That creativity is particularly vibrant among young entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Ireland has become a global tech hub and the location of choice for most of the world's largest computer and software companies, and is now the second-largest exporter of computer and IT services globally."
The launch event included a robust panel discussion on the impact of initiatives like the Irish Tech Challenge SA. Participating in the discussion, Senisha Moonsamy, Head of Innovation Skills Development at TIA, said that governments in the global north were shifting their developmental agenda from aid towards trade.
"Within this trend is the belief that technology, innovation and entrepreneurship can have a profound impact on the economic transformation of a country. TIA, through its Enterprise Development and GCIP Unit, has collaborated with the Embassy of Ireland and the DSI in developing the Irish Tech Challenge South Africa to enable our most talented and impactful tech entrepreneurs," Moonsamy concluded.
Applications are now open on the Irish Tech Challenge South Africa website, and entrepreneurs can join a virtual information session on 17 March to find out more details.