The MTN SA Foundation today commits a R1 million investment to enable innovation, entrepreneurship, and job creation for women in the digital economy.

The inaugural 2022 MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge will set 10 less established female owned SMMEs on a sure path to success with finance, mentorship and other business support resources provided by the Foundation.

Although women make up 13% of the graduates leaving SA tertiary institutions with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), 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.

As a consequence, only 23% of tech jobs are held by women in South Africa. Out of 236 000 ICT & Tech roles, women occupy 56 000 of them. This imbalance highlights to the need for the industry to help create an enabling environment for women to close that gender representation gap.

“Removing the barriers hindering women from entering STEM fields is the answer to South Africa’s enormous ICT skills gap and high unemployment rate”, says Angie Maloka, Senior Manager: Youth & Women Programmes at the MTN SA Foundation. “It’s imperative to fill this inequality gap, and for us, this means making a meaningful contribution to improving female-owned businesses in the ICT market.”

An extension of MTN’s existing SME accelerator programmes, the MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge forms part of the MTN Group’s commitment to developing ICT SMEs on the continent and aims to foster an entrepreneurial mindset through the provision of R100000 to 10 SMME candidates for working capital needs, business development, tangible assets, mentorship and business advancing technology/software.

Moreover, 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 female graduates and/or alumni members of the MTN SA Foundation business support programme are:

Siphokazi Nciza, Nkcubeko Noyila, Johanna Moabelo, Desiderata Mphehlo, Thobeka Nkabinde, Amanda Magwaza, Siyamtanda Hlobo, Masabata Chabeli, Neliswa Phungula and Estelle  Olifant.

“The future is increasingly digital, yet women are under-represented in this high-growth sector of the economy. 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,” says Maloka.

“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 can’t 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 SA and create long-term career prospects for our candidates and their future employees,” concludes Maloka.