Unlocking Innovation and Technology Development in Khayelitsha

As seen on Business Day Live – 19 March 2015, City Vision – 19 March 2015, Cape Argus – 20 March 2015 and heard on air on Cape Talk Radio – 23 March 2015

18 March 2015 marked a breakthrough moment for the Western Cape and its entrepreneurs when the Premier cut the ribbon at the Barn Khayelitsha at Lookout Hill Centre, Khayelitsha.

The Barn Khayelitsha is an incubator for entrepreneurs with a focus on tech and innovation, as well as empowering women in business and youth in tech. However, what sets it apart from other innovation hubs and incubators is the community-factor.

“The Barn model in Khayelitsha will be informed by our on-going consultation and engagement with the community,” said Ian Merrington, CEO of the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), in his opening address in Khayelitsha, “We are not only here to teach tech and business skills, we are also here to learn.”

The launch was hosted at Lookout Hill, Khayelitsha, provided by the City of Cape Town. The Barn Khayelitsha has been revamped and kitted out with a computer lab as well as a quiet space for entrepreneurs to collaborate, dream and create.

In this space the CiTi will provide programmes for entrepreneurs that will equip entrepreneurs with business skills and mentoring that will accelerate their product to market.

Says Merrington, “Our programmes will continue to evolve as we learn about the community’s needs. Key to this will be to connect them with their potential customers to continually test their solutions. We hope to be able to transform ideas into prototypes and then ultimately commercial products. We are particularly interested in Mobile applications as an outcome.”

“Our challenge in South Africa is ‘inclusive growth’,” said Joshin Raghubar, Chairperson of the Bandwidth Barn. “Ensuring growth and opportunities for an elite few that may already have financial and social capital is not good enough. We have launched Barn Khayelitsha as one of the many efforts to squarely address this challenge of ‘inclusive growth’. Growth alone is not enough if it leaves some people behind.”

The Proof of Concept for the Barn Khayelitsha model is supported by the Western Cape Government as part of their answer to job creation. Said Premier Zille at the launch, “Businesses create jobs. The more small businesses we have popping up all over the province and the country, the more jobs are created and the stronger our economy becomes.”

“We also need to start looking for the opportunities in our problems,” continued the Premier. “ Tech and innovation can be used to create solutions to everyday problems.”

Alan Winde, Minister for Economic Opportunities, said during his address, “I am excited about the ideas coming out of the Western Cape and that large international companies like Garmin want to buy the ideas our innovators are creating. But let’s keep the IP in South Africa. Let’s grow our local businesses and support our own entrepreneurs. The Barn Khayelitsha  is a launchpad of massive opportunity for our local entrepreneurs. It is providing a platform for our local entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and take them to the world.”

Interview with MEC and Ian Merrington

The Barn Khayelitsha is in the middle of the development corridor and community leaders from Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain and Strandfontein were present and honoured at the launch.  The Chairman of the KDF (Khayelitsha Development Forum) said, “There are more sim cards than people in Khayelitsha. The people of Khayelitsha will use the support that is for the community and answers the needs of the community.”

“The Western Cape Government is ensuring the future of its economy by investing in and supporting small business and entrepreneurs, especially in areas where solutions are desperately needed,” said Chris Vermeulen, Head of Enterprise Development at CiTi, in his closing address. “With the help of other business funding and investors, we can continue the work we have started. We hope to be in a position to take The Barn into more communities in South Africa.”

Programmes to follow will be:

  1. General Business Development and support
  2. Woman in Business programme
  3. Youth in Technology programme
  4. ICT skills development –coding and application development, amongst others, into a living lab
  5. Tourism – enabling local players and operators to use the internet as a tool and platform to promote and accelerate their business
  6. AgriTech – to enable small holder farmers to use technology to access the mainstream supply chain

To get in contact with The Barn Khayelitsha:

Tel: 021 361 0145 or 021 409 7000

Press: Candace@shiftone.co.za

Fiona Tabraham

Fiona Tabraham is a strategic workforce development expert with a career founded on a resolute commitment to inclusivity, talent nurturing, and societal impact. Chief Executive of CAPACITI Digital Career Accelerator, Fiona’s passion for equity has charted pathways across numerous organisations, guiding bespoke Talent Initiatives, Future Leadership Development Programs, and transformative Career Pathway Development. Her tenure at Network Rail bore inclusive talent strategies, STEM advocacy, and innovative Graduate, Apprentice, and Internship initiatives. A trusted partner to a number of governmental, corporate and impact driven entities, Fiona empowers individuals and organisations, fostering diverse recruitment practices and innovative talent strategies. Fiona’s impact transcends the tech sector, positioning her as a leading voice for inclusive digital career initiatives.