An unexpected effect of the global pandemic has been the importance of leaning on and cultivating local business and personal relationships. From your next-door neighbor, to the small business that provides your favorite takeout dinner around the corner, it’s important to start local in order to support your community and stimulate the local economy.
Cisco EDGE Incubation Center
The Cisco EDGE (Experience, Design, Go-to-Market, Earn) Incubation Center concept in Africa is a great example of a local, grassroots initiative that aims to share business knowledge, speed up entry to market and, and ultimately create new jobs for the local economy. Funded through the Cisco Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Program, the Center underscores Cisco’s commitment to power an inclusive future where internet connectivity is not a barrier to social and economic progress.
EDGE Centers function as incubators. They provide small-and-medium enterprise (SMME) businesses with state-of-the-art Cisco communication and collaboration technology, as well as training and enablement programs. The Centers focus on topics that are relevant to the local economy. For example, smart shipping ports, IoT in agriculture, and smart cities are areas of focus. In addition, small-and-medium businesses can connect with global Cisco experts who can support them with developing business ideas and concepts.
Growth in Africa
In November 2018, Cisco opened the first Cisco EDGE Incubation Center in Pretoria, South Africa, that has turned into a great example of local business creating meaningful jobs via technology. Since then, Cisco has continued to expand the reach of EDGE, opening Centers in Dube Trade Port, KwaZulu-Natal, and the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Other African countries for future expansion include Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, as well as the Eastern Cape, and Gauteng regions in South Africa.
The Importance of Partners
An important component to the success of the Pretoria EDGE Center has been Cisco reseller partners Makwa IT Technologies and A2D24. In addition to providing certified staff and customized service to their customers, both resellers have been instrumental in creating positions and hiring locally. Stimulating job growth is especially important because South Africa is facing high unemployment, low economic growth, dwindling competitiveness, and declining productivity.
Founded and led by Chief Executive Officer Lethabo Mokone, Makwa IT has recently been named as the first 100% black and youth-owned company in South Africa to be a certified Cisco Gold Partner. Founded in 2012, the company helps its private and public sector customers realize the benefits of digital transformation. Truly a rags-to-riches story, Mokone came from a township in Atteridgville, South Africa, and went on to graduate from the University of South Africa.
According to Mokone, most of Makwa IT’s employees are from disadvantaged backgrounds and have experienced much struggle stemming from inequalities of the past. Cisco Networking Academy students have also served as Makwa IT interns in the areas of sales and engineering. All interns are now full-time company employees and serve as technical account managers and pre-sales engineers.
“Through technology, Makwa IT is changing lives for a sustainable future,” Mokone said. “Working together and putting new technologies to good use allows us to provide solutions that make a difference for the current workforce and the future.”
One of the ways that Makwa IT distinguishes itself from the competition is a laser focus on customer experience and a portfolio that addresses the following sectors: financial services, mining, construction, safety and security, and national and local government.
A2D24 is another Pretoria EDGE Center partner and digital solutions and software development company. The company uses Cisco Meraki stack for the location and analytics functionality, and also uses Meraki video and Webex chat. The company specializes in healthcare and financial technology platforms and recently expanded its healthcare footprint with 19 new products and services focused on Covid-19. Specifically, the products and services help prevent the spread of Covid-19, as well as screening individuals in high-risk areas such as hospitals and mines. A2D24 partnered with a private healthcare provider to roll out a telehealth system that allows patients and doctors to consult safely over digital platforms.
On the financial technology front, the company developed a system with clients to assist small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs). The system allows SMMEs to receive information on government funding and assistance available to small businesses who are working through the challenges of operating businesses during the pandemic.
The retail sector is another area that was affected by the pandemic. Although A2D24’s customers shut down for a period of time, when they opened back up, their customers used A2D24’s systems to understand and forecast retail customer behavior in the store. Specifically, retailers were interested in understanding the amount of foot traffic and how it related to sales. Additionally, retailers were interested in customer shopping patterns to optimize their business practices.
“South Africa’s largest and deepest gold mine is a new customer that trusted us to build their system because of our reputation and status as a Cisco reseller,” said founder Muhammad Simjee. “Because of what we learned as being part of the EDGE Center, we were able to get 5,000 miners back to work very quickly after the mine was closed for six weeks during the pandemic.”
A Successful Combination
During the pandemic, Makwa IT and A2D24 stimulated the local economy because of their technology solutions, expertise, and services. In turn, their customers did the same by positively impacting individuals in the community. Cisco’s EDGE Center truly functions as a bridge to possible by connecting locally while reaching globally.
Learn more about Cisco’s EDGE Center
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