The MTN Foundation has kicked off the second edition of its MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge, which has pledged to give female digital entrepreneurs in South Africa R1 million (US$53,600) to help grow their businesses.
The challenge will run until December 31, 2023, and has chosen ten female digital pioneers who will each receive R100,000 ($5,360) in prize money.
"The prize money is to be used for working capital, business development, purchasing tangible assets, and investing in business technology hardware, software, or intellectual property (IP)," said Lesimola Selepe, senior manager for community programs at the MTN Foundation.
Women make up over 50% of the South African population but are not represented as strongly as they should be in the broad IT industry, MTN said about its reasoning for the project.
MTN SA believes it is up to talented women to show what they can achieve within the science, technology, information and mathematics (STEM) sectors in a country with massive skills and youth employment challenges.
"The MTN SA Foundation considers that making a practical contribution to fostering scarce skills and encouraging women to enter the sector is an essential part of making visible and sustained contributions to the communities in which we operate," Selepe said.
Finalists of the MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge 2023.
(Source: MTN Foundation)
"In this, the second MTN Women in Digital Challenge, we will once again be extending opportunities for women to benefit professionally through the innovative and entrepreneurial environment we will be creating for their growth. Hopefully, their success will inspire others and encourage other women to start businesses, or seek job opportunities within the IT sector," he continued.
Top ten to receive funding and mentorship
The challenge was only open to graduates and alumni of MTN's small business accelerated development program targeting ICT small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), and the Women in Digital Business Challenge focuses only on women-owned SMMEs.
From the initial applications, shortlisted women competed in a two-day pitching competition last month and the top ten finalists were then chosen.
The top ten entrepreneurs now enter a four-month mentorship journey in which they receive expert advice on how to grow their businesses and the adoption of marketing strategies. In addition, they are also given help to ensure that the financial and business management skills they require to run a successful small business are improved, MTN explained.
MTN Foundation GM Arthur Mukhuvha told Connecting Africa that the small business accelerated development program has trained over 365 ICT SMMEs in the past five years, 40% of which are women-owned SMMEs.
"Last year MTN Foundation launched the Women in Digital Business Challenge, which allows us to measure the success of the program in terms of its impact by measuring, amongst others: sustainability, growth, product design and scalability, revenue growth, jobs created, access to market and financial management," Mukhuvha explained.
"The Foundation's first MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge event in 2022 showed that women were not only capable of competing in the demanding IT sector but also made significant contributions to society by closing gaps in IT education. They offered young learners opportunities to develop their skills by offering teaching and coding skills," Selepe added.
The 2023 top ten include: Ntumi Mokhasipe from Anumi Visuals (Free State); Elizabeth Booi from Phambily Analytics (Western Cape); Sibusisiwe Sithole from Miss Pick Up (KwaZulu-Natal); Aasiyah Adams from Abaguquli4IR (Western Cape); Evelyn Maruping from Ping TV SA (Northern Cape); Neliswa Jilimba from Zibula Business Intelligence Technologies (North West); Mamello Mofokeng from Saturated (Gauteng); Mphele Yelane from Ezamazwe Education Centre for Innovation (Gauteng); Khathu Maphari from Khuphulanani Training Institute (Gauteng); and Zandile Mboshane from My Health Buzz (Mpumalanga).
*Top image is of the finalists of the MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge 2023, along with MTN executives. (Source: MTN Foundation.)
— The Staff, Connecting Africa