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MTN backs SA's youth to 'think tech, do business'

The MTN SA Foundation is once again backing 'Step Up to a Start Up', a youth entrepreneurship programme aimed at upskilling grade 9 to 12 teenagers to enable them to realise their entrepreneurial dreams.

A new report by The Small Business Institute (SBI) found South Africa only has a quarter of a million formal small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMEs); this number is dramatically lower than many other reported estimates. Taking this figure into consideration, the SBI warns that the National Development Plan's (NDP) goal of small businesses creating 90% of jobs by 2030 will not be achieved unless this vital segment of our economy is properly understood.

"It is for this reason that MTN continues to play an active role in backing initiatives aimed at unlocking entrepreneurial potential and development in South Africa. Step Up to a Start Up is a perfect example; it's about practically showing our young people how to launch businesses that can create much-needed jobs for themselves and others. It also complements our drive to contribute to the growth of the fourth industrial revolution through the development of home-grown solutions. These are solutions that can assist in bringing self-reliance closer to the communities in which they were developed," says Jacqui O'Sullivan, Executive for Corporate Affairs at MTN SA.

Since 2014, Step Up to a Start Up has exposed over 60 000 youth to entrepreneurship, paid out over R100 000 in seed funding to businesses that are in development phases, and contributed more than R150 000 towards bursaries to fund further education of the winners.

"It is very encouraging to hear the success stories of the young people whose lives have forever been changed by taking part in this programme, and knowing that MTN has had a role to play in this," says O'Sullivan.

Some of the success stories include those of:

Sipho Mlambo, who, along with his team, created a solar umbrella that collects and transforms abundant solar energy into electricity. Last year, he announced he had published his own book on entrepreneurship, and he is currently enrolled at the University of Cape Town, where his studies are funded by the bursary he won. He runs the institution's Entrepreneurship Society.

Terrence Liswoga and his team mates created noise-cancelling headphones. These were prototyped by Sizwe IT, and Liswoga is completing a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Entrepreneurship and Business Management at the North West University.

Omphile Senkwete, winner of the 2017 competition, and her partner created a transport platform solution for commuters using public transport last year. Well-known supporter of SMEs, Raizcorp, provided Senkwete and her team with technical support. She has since enrolled at the University of Pretoria to further her studies.

The launch of this year's edition of the Step Up to a Start Up programme took place with the screening of an educational movie: 'Think Tech, Do Business' at 14 Ster-Kinekor cinemas across the country in recent weeks. The movie documents the journey of the main character who discovers technology and starts a business that transforms her life and the lives of those in her community.

Each of the school-goers who attended a screening received a toolkit designed to assist them to implement the skills learnt by the movie's lead character. The toolkit was developed by Wits University and Regenesys Business School.

The teenagers were also invited to enter the national competition, where they will be required to develop and submit a detailed business plan. Final entries will need to be submitted by 31 October 2018.

The top nine teams selected will move on to attend an intensive four-day Entrepreneur Boot Camp, where top entrepreneurship experts will share their knowledge and experience with them. The winner will be announced at a gala dinner on 4 December 2018.


MTN Group

Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a multinational telecommunications group, operating in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The MTN Group is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa under the share code: "MTN".

As at the end of 30 June 2010, MTN recorded 129.2 million subscribers across its operations in Afghanistan, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Iran, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. The MTN Group is a global sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa and has exclusive mobile content rights for Africa and the Middle East. Visit and