On 18 March 2015, The Bandwidth Barn officially launched the Barn Khayelitsha as a community-based incubator based at the Lookout Hill Centre in Khayelitsha.
The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) announced the Proof of Concept for The Barn Khayelitsha in November last year, and has since been workshopping and actively engaging with the community to fine tune this unique community-based incubator model.
“The Barn Khayelitsha would not be possible without the community’s involvement and feedback,” says Ian Merrington, CEO of CiTi. “Our goal for the future is to take this model and roll it out in other communities across South Africa. Each community faces its own challenges, and needs solutions that are unique to that community. Thus, the community-lead incubator is the ideal vehicle for change in the economy.”
Innovation in the Western Cape
Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape, is confirmed to speak at the launch, along with Alan Winde, MEC of Economic Opportunities, as well as a number of other community and CiTi speakers.
“Every organisation, institution, community, family and individual, has a responsibility and role to play in development,” said Premier Zille at the State of the Premier Address recently. “Establishing the Western Cape as a hub of innovative businesses also remains a top priority.”
“Entrepreneurs are a vital part of our economy,” says MEC Winde. “Each and every new business has the potential to one day become a large employer. My job is to create the right environment so that the dreams of our province’s aspiring entrepreneurs have the best chance of becoming realities.”
The some of the goals of community-based incubation programmes are to enhance that community’s entrepreneurial capabilities and business acumen, stimulate local innovation, and retain and enhance existing businesses thereby ultimately fostering jobs and growth.
To this end, the Western Cape Government Department of Economic Development and Tourism funded the establishment of the first community Barn not only uplift the surrounding communities of Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain, but also to enhance entrepreneurship and ICT skills in these communities. Establishing an incubator is a significant, long-term investment. Effective planning is a key factor in ensuring the future success of such an initiative and the return on investment for the principle stakeholders. The incubator should focus on areas in which there is a market need and an opportunity for growth. The Proof of Concept is the first level attempt at assessing and ensuring the future success of the Khayelitsha incubator project.
The Barn Khayelitsha as a proof of concept enjoys the support of the Western Cape Government as its preliminary funder and the City of Cape Town for housing this incubator at the Lookout Hill, and is set to ensure the vision of an economy growing is achieved through innovation in the Western Cape.
Winning Community Support
“Working hand-in-hand with the community and its leadership is vital to the success of this Barn,” says Chris Vermeulen, head of CiTi’s Enterprise Development programme. “Our aim is to be lead and directed 100% by the community’s needs, and not by any other agenda.”
The programmes to be offered are being custom-designed by The Barn Khayelitsha, with input from local entrepreneurs, SMEs, the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) and other community organisations, with a view to providing tailor-made solutions and support to the challenges entrepreneurs in the Khayelitsha/Mitchell’s Plain corridor might face.
“Barn Khayelitsha is already enjoying great community support,” says Baratang Miya, Business Development Manager of The Barn Khayelitsha. “We opened the doors to school-going children during the school holidays recently, so that they could learn coding and IT skills. We have hosted several tech and women in business events at The Barn, all in our support of developing women and youth from the community in innovation and technology.”
The Official Launch Event
The launch event will be held at Lookout Hill, Khayelitsha, and will enjoy speakers such as Premier Zille, MEC Winde, KDF members and more. It also serves as a stage to showcase the community’s local businesses in an exciting outdoor expo.