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Top Empowerment 22nd Edition

TRANSFORMING TECH Transforming the tech sector with B-BBEE

By Emma Montocchio, Nelly Mohale and Camrynne Cross

The Youth Employment Service (YES) B-BBEE incentive out of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) is arguably one of the best in recent years and the tech sector is benefiting on multiple levels.

As highlighted by both the Sanlam Gauge 2022 report and the “National Status and Trends on B-BBEE Transformation Report” from the B-BBEE Commission, the ICT sector has been

struggling, particularly on the ownership and Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) elements. The YES B-BBEE incentive has been a game-changer in the last two years with many technology businesses who struggle to meet ownership criteria, able to move up to two full levels on their scorecard through the creation of youth jobs.

While much of the focus for YES is around the job creation element, we would argue – based on our experiencethat YES is playing a critical role in capacitating grassroots technology skills that will have a transformative impact in the coming years.

“B-BBEE remains a key part of any access to market strategy for technology businesses and getting it right doesn’t have to be difficult ”

Take for instance a youth named Lonwabo who was part of a YES cohort based in the Eastern Cape and had been deployed to support basic computer literacy initiatives in schools. During his 12-month work experience, Lonwabo was able to receive in training a variety of tools including the Microsoft Power Apps suite of products. In his spare time, Lonwabo has been building an app to help municipalities in the Eastern Cape digitise their records and we are now working with him to access grant funding for grassroots innovation.

Seen in isolation, Lonwabo is a good story.

When one considers that he was part of a cohort of over 800 youth and more than 100 of this cohort were subsequently taken into a project in the banking sector, you can start to see how skills transfer and capacitation begins to have a massive multiplier effect.

There are many examples that we can draw on. Another project that we recently reported on, saw 29 young women on a YES funded program supporting digital labs doing early childhood literacy and numeracy. In just 6 months this intervention alone reached 14 000 young children across Gauteng and the Western Cape and we expect to see these benefits in education standards in the years to come.

As a business, we have worked on a variety of high-social impact initiatives from sanitary pad manufacturing, software technicians, call-centre support and solar but at the core of each of these projects is a focus on enhancing digital literacy for all youth participating in the programmes.

Through its “Implementation Partner” model, YES itself has also developed some powerful partnerships with the likes of RLabs which is an award-winning, globally recognised player in the technology space as well as the Cape Innovation and technology Initiative (CapaCITI).

These are not just youth being kept busy for 12-months as part of a B-BBEE initiative but rather an opportunity to access partnerships and placement opportunities which are developing in capacity in everything from accounting packages through to SalesForce and AirBNB sectorspecific projects.

YES is also reporting growing success through its drone pilot training initiatives of youth based at its hubs in Alexandra and Vredenburg in Saldanha. Exposure to programs like this shift the psyche of youth who are waking up every morning in these communities facing unemployment rates of between 40% and 60% and many job seekers have simply given up looking for work. Suddenly the opportunity to become a drone pilot or an app developer can become a reality.

There is no question that B-BBEE is a contentious topic and participants in the ICT sector have very real challenges in terms of how they integrate it into their operations, particularly as they face pressure from the likes of the financial services and mining sectors who push for higher scorecard ratings.

B-BBEE remains a key part of any access to market strategy for technology businesses and getting it right doesn’t have to be difficult if companies in the sector start leveraging the opportunities available. Opportunities that create value on multiple levels for the sector and promote scarce and critical skills.

We believe that the YES incentive out of the DTIC is not only playing a key role in job creation but it is also rapidly developing technology skills at a grassroots level that will benefit the South African economy for years to come. So YES! B-BBEE is a tech game changer.