EMPOWERING SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS: DSD’S ROLE AT GEC+AFRICA CONFERENCE

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Precious Mupenzi 

  • Over 2,000 entrepreneurs and leaders from 50+ African countries convened at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC)+Africa Conference in Cape Town. The Department of Social Development actively engaged in the conference, showcasing its commitment to advancing social entrepreneurship.
  • The initiative, launched by Ministers Lindiwe Zulu and Stella Ndabeni Abrahams in partnership with 22 on Sloane and the UNDP, aimed to strengthen the African entrepreneurship ecosystem. This collaboration led to a subsequent agreement between the DSD and the UNDP, focusing on social entrepreneurship development.
  • Through this partnership, DSD and its agencies participated in the conference, highlighting their investments in social entrepreneurship. Small businesses funded by the DSD, including Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant beneficiaries who initiated their businesses, showcased their ventures. The conference facilitated networking, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration opportunities among emerging businesses and stakeholders.

Over 2,000 entrepreneurs and leaders from over 50 African countries gathered at the Cape Town International Convention Centre for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC)+Africa Conference, held from 13 to 14 March. The Department of Social Development actively participated in the conference.

The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, together with Minister of Small Businesses, Stella Ndabeni Abrahams, in partnership with 22 on Sloane launched the GEC +Africa initiative in Cape Town on 14 November 2022, under the theme; “Strengthening the African Entrepreneurship Ecosystem.” Both departments and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) jointly initiated this effort, leading to a subsequent partnership agreement between the DSD and the UNDP with a focus on social entrepreneurship.

Through this initiative, the DSD and its agencies were able to participate in this year’s conference, showcasing their contribution and investment in advancing social entrepreneurship. Small businesses that are funded by DSD through its agency, National Development Agency (NDA), were invited to exhibit. Beneficiaries of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, who used their grants to kickstart their small businesses, were also among the exhibitors at the event. These small businesses were afforded an opportunity to showcase their businesses, establish networks, and learn from other emerging businesses.

The conference included African and international thought leaders and practitioners who shared innovative ideas, insights and experiences within the context of advancing social entrepreneurship. Several government agencies and private businesses showcased their work through the exhibition.

One of the exhibitors, Johnnie Ngwenya (53), and Samuel Sithole (28) are co-owners of Infinity Destiny Robotics (IDR), based in Pretoria.

IDR is an emerging Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) founded in 2018 with the objective of empowering and preparing communities for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) and beyond. Its mission is to enhance their competitiveness in terms of creativity and innovation on a global scale.

Speaking during the conference, Ngwenya said that their business specialises in robotic coaching, fine art and painting for all community members and entrepreneurs. 

“IDR’s goal is to make the long-term educational benefits of robotics accessible, and further improve the public’s understanding of science, technology, engineering and math. We aim to develop the skills, character and aspirations of students and contribute to the enrichment of our school systems and underprivileged communities,” said Ngwenya.

“The mission is to address social ills by offering an alternative unconventional approach by introducing these skills to our youth to encourage them to stay away from drugs, teenage pregnancy and other social ills. We have introduced robotics to our vulnerable townships, namely, Mamelodi Orphanage Home (SOS), Leamogetswe Safety Home kids (orphans) in Atteridgeville and Nokuthula Special School in Tembisa. In addition, normal public schools in Lynnwood Ridge Primary School have also benefitted,” he said.

“In this conference, we were showcasing entrepreneurial activities through innovation and robotics. Through this conference, we have gained leads, potential collaborations and sponsors. We thank DSD for providing this networking platform for social entrepreneurs. We look forward to collaboration with DSD to further advance social entrepreneurship,” he concluded.

 

The conference was powered by the Department of Small Business in collaboration with Eskom, the Department of Social Development, Microsoft, Allan & Gill Gray, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA).

 

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