New Initiative to Improve Entrepreneurial Development in Africa – the Innovation Bridge Entrepreneur Community

24 MAY 2022

New initiative to improve entrepreneurial development in Africa – the Innovation Bridge Entrepreneur Community

The Departments of Science and Innovation (DSI) and Small Business Development, in collaboration with the World Bank have launched a revamped digital portal to assist young entrepreneurs and innovators with access to support services and financing needed to grow their businesses.

The Innovation Bridge Portal, an initiative of the DSI, brings entrepreneurship ecosystem actors from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini and Namibia together to benefit innovators and entrepreneurs. It promotes collaboration among public and private ecosystem stakeholders to become that “one-stop shop” repository for information, opportunity, and networks.

The digital platform was unveiled in Pretoria on Tuesday, 17 May 2022 during which 14 start-up entrepreneurs from South Africa, Namibia, and Lesotho, pitched their innovative ideas for possible funding, mentorship, coaching and networking opportunities.

Speaking at the launch, the DSI Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, spoke about how technology was eliminating some jobs and reducing the demand on one end, whilst creating totally new fields on the other. “Therefore we need to start thinking about how to replace those jobs that are gone with something slightly different.”

The Director-General said creating a very vibrant start-up community and supporting young entrepreneurs who have ideas to build their businesses was extremely important, adding that as government this was an important contribution to the support provided to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to develop and manage this innovation portal.
The portal is expected to be a catalyst in enabling entrepreneurs and innovators to thrive, promoting economic growth and job creation in South Africa and its neighbouring countries.

Over the past months the Innovation Bridge team engaged various ecosystem partners in providing targeted support for underserved entrepreneurs through a hybrid business incubation training and mentorship program that allowed these entrepreneurs to reflect and critique their respective business models and identify and address skills and knowledge gaps systematically.

These efforts and the dedication of the entrepreneurs were reflected in the inaugural pitch competition that formed a critical part of the launch event.

Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for Eswatini, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa expressed hope that the Innovation Bridge would expand further and also highlighted the importance of government establishing seed financing facilities to provide much needed support to these early stage businesses.

“This is certainly possible in Southern Africa region given the wealth of talent and resources in the ecosystem,” said Ms Marie-Nelly, emphasizing the need to work together to strengthen the ecosystem and remove existing policy and regulatory bottlenecks.

The Deputy Minister of Small Business and Development Sdumo Dlamini said small businesses were at the centre of South Africa’s economic recovery and that government was working hard through the Presidency, to reduce red tape in doing business in South Africa.

Among the entrepreneurs who participated in the Innovation Bridge inaugural pitching session, Abiri Innovations, a South African start-up that provides integrated mapping system in peri-urban and rural areas, took the number one spot as the Most Promising Entrepreneur. “This win means great motivation to work harder and smarter to achieve more”, said Tswelelo Mashita who is one of the co-founders of the Abiri Innovations.

Nosihle Dlamini who took the Best Pitch Award for her Get2Natural Beauty start-up, produces scientifically approved hair and skin products for the African market. Joseph Nyamariwata received the most innovative idea award for his Simple Influence start-up which connects marketers with vetted influencers online, connects and launches marketing campaigns.

For more information or to sign up and be a part of the Innovation Bridge Entrepreneur Community, visit:

Issued by the Department of Science and Innovation, Department of Small Business Development and the World Bank

For more information, please contact:
DSI: Veronica Mohapeloa at or +27 (0) 83 400 5750.
World Bank: Maria Mboono Nghidinwa at or +27 (0) 11 742 3100.

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