The MTN South Africa (SA) Foundation has launched its inaugural 2022 MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge, with a R1-million commitment, to support 10 less established female-owned small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs).
The 10 candidates, who are female graduates and/or alumni members of the MTN SA Foundation business support programme, will be provided with R100 000 for working capital needs, business development, tangible assets, mentorship and business advancing technology/software.
Each SMME will receive training, small business support and enter a four-month mentorship programme to ensure effective deployment of capital and resources, further accelerating their business and rate of business success, or the opportunity and tools to create future businesses that are robust, innovative and able to succeed in a challenging and ever-changing landscape.
The 10 candidates that will enter the 2022 MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge programme are Siphokazi Nciza; Nkcubeko Noyila; Johanna Moabelo; Desiderata Mphehlo; Thobeka Nkabinde; Amanda Magwaza; Siyamtanda Hlobo; Masabata Chabeli; Neliswa Phungula; and Estelle Olifant.
The MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge is an extension of MTN’s existing SME accelerator programmes.
Removing the barriers hindering women from entering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields is the answer to South Africa’s enormous information and communications technology (ICT) skills gap and high unemployment rate, says MTN SA Foundation youth and women programmes senior manager Angie Maloka.
The future is increasingly digital, yet women are under-represented in this high-growth sector of the economy.
Women make up 13% of the graduates leaving South African tertiary institutions with qualifications in STEM; however, there is a lack of digital exposure and career guidance post-graduation, which is a significant challenge for women pursuing ICT-related careers or entrepreneurship opportunities.
Only 23% of technology jobs are held by women in South Africa, she adds, highlighting that, out of 236 000 ICT and technology roles, women occupy 56 000 of them.
This imbalance highlights the need for the industry to help create an enabling environment for women to close that gender representation gap.
“To ensure faster progress, sustainability and job creation, young women need support and encouragement to enter the sector, while women already in the sector need strong mentors to inspire them, guide them and push them to bring their ideas to life,” she says.
“For us, this empowerment means not only raising the status of women through education, awareness, literacy and training, but also being open to women’s concepts for services and product provision. We cannot wait to see what business ideas and cases our candidates generate at the end of the four-month programme.
“Our hope is that the outcomes go far to close the skills shortage gap in South Africa and create long-term career prospects for our candidates and their future employees,” Maloka concludes.