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Africa’s Own Aspiring Extraterrestrial Calls On African Innovators To Apply For The #Africa4Future Initiative Before 30 November

Dr Adriana Marais, Theoretical Physicist, Head of Innovation at SAP Africa and self-proclaimed aspiring extraterrestrial, recognises the launch of #Africa4Future opportunity for African innovators and explains innovation links to the Mars One vision.

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Dr Adriana Marais

InnoCircle recently hosted a webinar with Dr Adriana Marais to discuss the link between the vision and mission of the Mars One project and the imminent Africa-first Aerospace Accelerator #Africa4Future. African innovators in the tech sector have 4 days left to apply.

Dr Adriana Marais is a theoretical physicist who has made it her life’s mission to embark on the one-way trip to Mars in order to establish life on the surface of another planet. As Head of Innovation at SAP Africa she is passionate about exploring innovative applications of emerging technologies to challenges facing the continent.

Mars One is a foundation that will establish permanent human life on Mars. Human settlement on Mars is possible today with existing technologies. The first footprint on Mars and lives of the crew thereon will captivate and inspire generations and it is this project that Marais is part of. She is one of 50 men and 50 women selected as part of the Mars 100, 100 people that have been chosen from a pool of 202,586 applicants to proceed to the next round and are one step closer to becoming the first humans on Mars.

The #Africa4Future Aerospace Accelerator is the first of its kind on the African continent and post the application deadline on 30 November, 10 startups will be selected to join the programme which kicks off on January 15th. Selected teams will receive access to industry-leading experts, feedback from top engineers, a showcase at the Paris International Airshow in 2019 and a potential opportunity to launch a collaboration project in partnership with key Airbus departments. The selected teams will also receive space within MEST Incubators across Africa during the programme.

InnoCircle spoke to Dr Adriana Marais on the link between the #Africa4Future initiative and the Mars mission.

“This is an era of rapid change but also an era that we should be extremely excited to be living in,” states Dr Adriana Marais, “With improved technology comes the capacity to do things that have never been done before. We are the group of humans that will witness the first journey of humans to Mars and the first establishment of an off-world settlement on the surface of the planet Mars before 2030.”

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

The Foundation for Space Development, where Dr Marais is Director, is planning an overwinter research expedition to Antarctica in 2020. Antarctica is the perfect simulation of a Martian habitat where explorers will experience real isolation and harsh living conditions. Each explorer will need to contribute to the research community. Projects will range from the kind of tech needed to survive in hostile environments and extend to research, wellness and entertainment. Technologies will involve the production of the basic human needs like power, air, water management systems, efficient food production in harsh conditions, drones to explore the environment and secure communication capabilities.

“Exploration drives innovation and that’s exactly what thinking around startup ideas in the Aerospace industry are going to simulate,” adds Dr Marais, “New knowledge, new growth and new ideas. We need the creative thinking borne of an idea of surviving in a harsh environment. This out-of-the-box thinking is exactly what we need to explore and also what we need to create a brighter future here on Earth.”

She adds: “The Indian Space Agency in 2015 launched a Mars orbital mission for $100 million, which involved a super drone that orbits around the planet, doing imaging of the atmosphere rather than the surface. In this way, developing countries are proving that we can do space cheaper and better than before.”

The perfect platform to test Aerospace ideas is, of course, the #Africa4Future Accelerator. This joint accelerator program betweenAirbus’ global aerospace accelerator BizLab and Make-IT in Africa, a programme by the German Agency for International Cooperation(GIZ), will be implemented by MEST and InnoCircle, two organisations with a significant presence and deep knowledge of entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa, this year.

For this second edition, the call is on African tech startups that are actively working on solutions related to unmanned logistics and remote sensing technology, including automation and drones, electrification, blockchain, artificial intelligence, data analytics and material composites and manufacturing.

“The multidisciplinary approach to identifying challenges and the recommended solutions in Africa – the combination of aerospace technology with agriculture, health or data analytics, opens the world for more cost-effective solutions to global problems in all sectors,” adds Karen Eksteen, co-founder of InnoCircle.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

“Our experience in working in the global tech startup scene in combination with a strong African network and a solid understanding of the African Tech ecosystem, is a good match for the objectives of Airbus Bizlab and the GIZ. They understand the potential of Africa as an emerging market for Aerospace technology and sought local implementation partners. Our unique value proposition in combination with the infrastructure of MEST Incubator, a ten-year-old Pan-African initiative, made us a perfect fit,” states Ellen Fischat, co-founder of InnoCircle.

“I look forward to following the progress of this programme, because I think it’s going to be an excellent way to have some insight into the amazing innovations in the Aerospace field happening around the continent. I look forward to seeing more of this,” concludes Dr Adriana Marais.

Startups can submit applications for the program until 30th November 2018 via https://www.airbus-bizlab.com/africa4future

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Global Guide For Entrepreneurs, Innovators Launches In Johannesburg

Startup Guide partners with SAP Next-Gen, Tshimologong Precinct to bring global guidebook to Johannesburg innovation ecosystem; calls for nominations.

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Calling all entrepreneurs, accelerators, innovators, co-working spaces and experts in the City of Gold: Startup Guide, the leading global guide for start-ups in high-growth innovation hubs in Europe, the US and Middle East, is open to nominations in Johannesburg.

Founded in 2014, Startup Guide is a creative content and publishing company that produces guidebooks and tools to help entrepreneurs to connect to communities and resources in the leading start-up cities around the world. Its global footprint covers some of the most innovative and thriving start-up ecosystems in the US, Europe and the Middle East, including those of London, New York, Berlin, Tel Aviv, and Stockholm. After launching in Cape Town earlier in the year, Startup Guide now moves to Johannesburg.

According to Sissel Hansen, Founder and CEO of Startup Guide, South Africa’s largest city is emerging as a key innovation hub for start-ups.

“Johannesburg has recently emerged as a growing ecosystem for start-ups and entrepreneurs in Africa, particularly in the tech industry. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to create a comprehensive guide of resources for aspiring founders wanting to do business in South Africa’s largest city.”

Startup Guide Johannesburg was launched at Wits University’s Tshimologong Precinct, one of Johannesburg’s newest high-tech addresses in the vibrant inner-city district of Braamfontein. Tshimologong, which means “new beginnings” in Setswana, focuses on the incubation of digital entrepreneurs, commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth. Lesley Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Precinct, says: “South Africa is fast-becoming a go-to source for innovation, especially in the tech sector. We believe the introduction of a dedicated resource for the startup ecosystem in Johannesburg will unlock significant opportunities for innovation hubs such as ours to more easily connect with entrepreneurs, experts and other roleplayers, ultimately providing a more supportive environment for growth.”

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Black Entrepreneurs To Watch

Startup Guide has partnered with SAP Next-Gen, a purpose driven innovation university and community for the SAP ecosystem enabling companies, partners and universities to connect and innovate with purpose linked to the UN Sustainable Goals for Development. Ann Rosenberg, Senior Vice President and Head of Global SAP Next-Gen says:

“We strive to connect digital innovators in an open innovation community to drive the future success and growth of industries through the use of technology. As we have witnessed in other high-innovation cities around the world, the introduction of knowledge resources – supported by opportunities for collaboration and partnership in an open ecosystem – enhances the overall success of entire start-up communities. Johannesburg’s world-famous energy and business acumen will greatly benefit from the launch of Startup Guide Johannesburg and the support of industry partners, including SAP Next-Gen and the Tshimologong Precinct.”

Cathy Smith, Managing Director of SAP Africa, adds that the partnership with Startup Guide aligns well with the company’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “As an organisation we are committed to achieving the high ambitions set out by the SDGs. However, it is virtually impossible to do so alone: the concept of partnership with likeminded purpose-driven organisations and initiatives is vital not only to realising the SDGs but to foster a greater and more inclusive innovation ecosystem in Johannesburg and across the African continent.”

Nominations for the Johannesburg edition of Startup Guide are now open. If you know a start-up, entrepreneur, programme, space, accelerator, or experts and would like to see them featured in the book, please visit https://startupguide.com/shop/startup-guide-johannesburg and submit your nomination.

Visit the SAP News Center. Follow SAP on Twitter at @sapnews.

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Aspirations For SMMEs In South Africa

Research released earlier this year, revealed that there are only 250 000 formal SMMEs in South Africa.

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Entrepreneurs who have started up a business over the past 10 years have done so in an environment that has been largely negative, with slow economic growth and an unstable political landscape. “So, all in all, a very difficult setting to launch, grow or even maintain a business,” says Bizmod MD, Anne-Marie Pretorius.

Pretorius says that many entrepreneurs who operate in South Africa can be forgiven for often wondering if the slog is worth it. Yet they continue – despite economic uncertainty, strikes, retrenchments and downscaling.  “It is this tenacity that sets entrepreneurs apart, and I often wonder how much more successful they would be in an easier and more supportive environment.”

Below, Pretorius shares her ideal pro-entrepreneur outlook for the future:

  • Greater policy certainty on all key government policies from land reform to regulations surrounding labour broking.
  • Being able to do away with bad policy faster. An example of where this did not happen was in the changes of visa requirements; leading to an unnecessary dent in our tourism industry, an industry that should be targeted for growth.
  • Lower compliance requirements for companies with a turnover under R50 million. The cost of compliance for smaller enterprises is significantly higher in comparison to their income and the cash they have available. Smaller companies need simpler frameworks where compliance is required. A portal similar to SARS e-filing, which makes compliance across various pieces of legislation clear and simple, would be ideal.
  • The Labour Relations Act is a key piece of legislation that has done a lot to protect the rights of the employee. It has attempted to balance the power relationship between employee and employer. Some innovation is however required in labour practices, allowing for mutually beneficial flexible working relationships that keep pace with the changing work environment.
  • Buy small, buy South African! A framework whereby large corporations and government would have to allocate a certain minimum percentage to buying from smaller local companies. There are encouraging signs that this is happening more, however this is still not an ingrained practice. In addition, consumers should be more informed on what items are South African produced, in order for them to be encouraged to purchase locally.
  • Easier access to funds enabling entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. There are currently a few options available, but all of the options require significant governance and red tape. Whilst this is understandable from the lenders perspective, it does hamper the agility and growth of companies.
  • Make good financial governance aspirational, attractive and easily accessible.
  • The process for tenders to be corruption free and fair, enabling more companies to add value.
  • Pay SMME’s on 30 days or less. Enormous pressure exists on smaller companies when not paid on time. They simply do not have the cash flow to carry a debtor’s book of 90 days and this inevitably hampers their growth.
  • Tax SMME’s at a lower tax rate. Profit tax should be lowered in order to drive entrepreneurship.
  • Creating a platform that makes it simpler to employ young individuals with potential and create support programmes for SMMEs to upskill them. There is a significant financial and time investment required to train a young person, which can make SMME’s sometimes wary to do so.

“If we are able to make only some of these ideals a reality, there is no doubt that we would see economic growth, entrepreneurial growth, and more employment opportunities,” concludes Pretorius.

Related: A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas

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South African Students Win R50 000 In The Universities Business Challenge

Students from Mangosuthu University of Technology beat 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa.

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The Overlings from Mangosuthu University of Technology are the 2018 winners of Cognity Advisory’s Universities Business Challenge (UBC), sponsored by General Electric (GE). The winning team of four students are walking away with R50,000 to turn their business idea into reality.

Launched in July this year, the UBC has seen 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa participate in a business simulation competition designed to develop entrepreneurship skills.

When the competition launched, all teams were challenged to form virtual companies and to virtually manufacture and sell bicycles.

The final 10 teams were from the University of Limpopo, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Vaal University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and North-West University.

During the two-day final, the teams played six rounds of simulations. Each simulation gave the teams a chance to re-evaluate their progress and better certain areas that needed improving. The winning team realised during one of their simulations that in order to maximise profits they would need to introduce two new products and market it differently from their initial product. They paid special attention to their customer’s needs. 

The aim of the UBC was designed to tackle South Africa’s high level of youth unemployment. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced that South Africa’s official unemployment rate increased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 27.5% in the third quarter of 2018.

Nkosinathi Sokhulu from the winning team said, “Even though we didn’t have a great presentation we made the most profit. This experience taught us a lot about ourselves and business. Most of the decisions that we made came from serious debates. We learnt that market research is crucial when starting a business. We learnt that marketing starts and ends with the customer.”

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

“Based on this market research information we realised that it was important for us to introduce two new products and this, in addition to the main product we were selling, helped us to maximise profits. We saw an opportunity to add more products and it paid off” said Mbali Tshozi.

Tope Toogun, development advisor and CEO of Cognity Advisory said, “All the teams showed tremendous promise and I was very impressed by their levels of engagement with one another and their tenacity.”

“We really want to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to not only start a business but to run it effectively. While we have selected one winner, our hope is that each team has benefitted by having learned the skills needed in the workplace.”

“The competition is designed to develop the ‘soft skills’ that are important for those wanting to set up their own business or simply be successful at work. With rising unemployment and ongoing talent shortages, having these skills is crucial for those wanting to get a job.”

The UBC, now in its second year in South Africa, will continue into its third year in 2019 and will run as the Africa Enterprise Challenge (AEC).

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