From a dusty warehouse on a working dry dock to a next generation, multi-use innovation hub designed to showcase and enable solutions to South African and African opportunities, the V&A Waterfront’s Workshop17, which officially launched today, is set to lift the veil on African tech and innovation.
The V&A Waterfront has long recognised the importance of the shared economy, and Workshop17 was born of the desire to support start-ups and experienced companies, profit and non-profit entities, and big and small initiatives, in their efforts to create a better future. It will be managed on behalf of the V&A Waterfront by OPEN, a co-working space operator and a partner in the initiative.
Housed on the upper level of the Watershed, the newly launched Workshop17 is home to over 130 tenants so far. These resident member businesses, start-ups and freelancers will all share a collaborative working environment as they work to develop their businesses, products and ideas in the long-term.
With the fastest internet available, eight fully-equipped meeting, teaching and function rooms, and ‘creative spaces’ for idea generation, creative brainstorming, and relaxing – all with incredible views over the dry dock towards Table Mountain – the Workshop17 space has been carefully designed to accommodate its vision of collaboration and modern working.
“Given the V&A Waterfront’s location and diverse visitorship, the Workshop17 platform will provide small entities with the best opportunities,” said David Green, CEO of the V&A Waterfront.
“Workshop17 was a seed of an idea six years ago when we recognised that we could use our resources to foster small business through an innovation hub. Today, the result is a working space with a clear vision that has a very different kind of potential that extends far beyond the walls of Workshop17. We look forward to seeing cutting-edge ideas, plans, developments and solutions that we are certain will come out of this revitalised space.”
Workshop17 has been designed to facilitate a community of talented, passionate and diverse people learning and working together to create new solutions to big and small problems, and will allow interaction between the public, entrepreneurs, innovators and designers, as well as between disciplines, sectors and cultures in its endeavours.
This new innovation hub will have a strong technology and entrepreneurial focus, which is clearly demonstrated among the partners on board for the initiative. Nigerian-born, US-based Julius Akinyemi is a founding member of the Advisory Board of Workshop17, bringing both passion for and experience in entrepreneurship to Workshop17. Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States and the former Global Director of Emerging Technologies for PepsiCo Inc., Akinyemi will also be the hub’s first Entrepreneur in Residence.
The space itself is home to a coding academy and a growing number of small businesses, many of whom are tech-orientated, all focused on supporting its community of diverse members and associated companies.
“The V&A Waterfront’s investment in Workshop17 is intended for positive social impact, and illustrative of our goal of always investing in a responsible, impactful manner. This is an investment in people and ideas, and not one focused entirely on commercial return,” said Green.
Accelerating technology at Workshop17
The V&A Waterfront has made a strategic decision to support the creation of a tech cluster within Workshop17 to accelerate innovative products that will capitalise on the market opportunities. It also creates a platform to promote the success and rapid growth of local tech start-ups that often go unnoticed by the media.
mLab, Silicon Cape and codeX are key residents of Workshop17, specifically chosen by the V&A Waterfront because their programmes create a highly inclusive, innovative and productive environment, with a focus on growing existing and new technology businesses and creating new skills in the field of technology, all for positive social and economic impact.
“The Waterfront’s support enables us to provide a free platform for emerging coders and entrepreneurs who are often excluded from the buzzing tech ecosystem purely because they are based in townships and lower income communities. Workshop17 will create a truly inclusive environment for this talent to thrive,” said Derrick Kotze, CEO of mLab Southern Africa.
With financial support of the V&A Waterfront, this technology cluster will work to promote and build an entrepreneurial and tech ecosystem in Cape Town and ensure access to Workshop17 for talented, emerging coders and entrepreneurs. It will function as complementary to other Workshop17 events and community activities.
Cape Town – The English language school industry in South Africa could collapse within weeks or months, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan was told on Monday.
She took part in a workshop on South African visa requirements, hosted by Wesgro (the destination marketing, investment and trade promotion agency for the Western Cape).
A number of English language schools in South Africa might have to close their doors soon, because of the silo approach between the Departments of Labour, Home Affairs and Higher Education, said a school owner during question time at the workshop.
He told Chohan that his English language schools will have to shut down soon if the various departments do not sort out problems in the sector so that prospective students from abroad can obtain their student visas.
He has already had to let some staff members go, he said.
“The current visa situation is making it impossible for the English language schools to sustain themselves through the high season which is starting,” the attendee said.
Another attendee, who said he started his first English language school in SA in 1991, said he has so far this year had to refund R150 000 to prospective students who did not manage to obtain visas.
“Home Affairs must become jacked up on the issue. If they are worried about fraud, they must follow up on the cases where students arrive in the country and then do not attend the school; we report those cases, but nothing gets done about it by Home Affairs,” he said.
Yet another workshop attendee said his school will have to close down soon, because for the past ten years he has been “pushed from one department to another and even made a presentation to Parliament at some point about the problems in the sector. The two silos of the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Higher Education are not communicating with each other.”
Wesgro CEO Tim Harris said the workshop has shown him how complicated the relationship between the Departments of Labour, Home Affairs, Higher Education and even Trade and Industry is.
“Maybe we should invite other departments to our next visa workshop too,” said Harris.
Chohan responded that she would be willing to facilitate a meeting with the Department of Higher Education on the issue.
She said the Department of Higher Education has certain standards and that there is no provision for the registration of English language schools in the department’s framework.
Chohan said in Gauteng the department found cases where people would come to South Africa from abroad as English language students, only to “throw away their passports and claim asylum, which allows them to stay in SA longer”.
Cape Town – Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan declared on Monday that she is willing to accompany representatives of the SA tourism industry to China in order to see how dropping visitor numbers from that country can be curbed.
She took part in a visa legislation workshop hosted by Wesgro (the destination marketing, investment and trade promotion agency for the Western Cape).
According to Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, it is a great idea of the deputy minister to go and try to establish first-hand what the causes for the drop in number of Chinese tourists could be and how to try and remedy the situation.
Harris acknowledged that the workshop had left many attendees still dissatisfied with South Africa’s new visa regulations and the impact on the local tourism industry. At the same time he said the workshop showed how there can be constructive engagements between certain sectors, like the film industry, and the Department of Home Affairs.
He thanked Chohan for attending the workshop even though the expectation was from the beginning that she would encounter some “hostile” reaction.
Chohan in turn said the department is prepared to attend more workshops in future and is looking into establishing a one-stop visa centre in Gauteng.
Harris said Wesgro will look also into the creation of a one-stop visa services centre in Cape Town, similar to one being rolled out by the department in Gauteng.
“It is getting us nowhere to keep on throwing stones at each other. Let us rather try to make it work. Just as my trip to India has helped to sort out visa problems there, I am prepared to help with the challenges in China as well,” said Chohan.
“We need to say it is now water under the bridge and let us move forward.”
Chris Whelan, CEO of the business think tank Accelerate Cape Town, said the tourism industry must be supported in order to create wealth for SA.
“Let’s put the visa and security issue to bed. No one disputes the importance. The end is justified, but the means is the important issue we have to address,” he said.
David Frost, CEO of the South African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) told Harris and Chohan that the industry basically wants clarity on the visa issue “so that we can go out there and do what we do best – get more tourists to come to South Africa”.
Favourable exchange rate
He said the SA tourism industry provides jobs for about 1.5 million people. He wanted to know what has happened to the ministerial task team which is supposed to look into the visa matter, as it has not even gathered yet.
Michael Tollman, chair of Cullinan Holdings, a large SA tourism and leisure group, told Chohan that last year this time the company had a large number of tour groups visiting SA from China and Singapore. So far this year, it has had none.
Tollman claims it is mainly due to the Ebola scare and the Chinese government advising its citizens not to travel to Africa because of the disease.
“This year our tourism numbers should have been up about 25% because of SA’s favourable exchange rate for overseas visitors, but this is not happening,” warned Tollman.
He would like to see a task team to establish the correct information to be sent out to people applying for SA visas.
“At the moment we are all a bit lost and we need the right communication to sell SA to the world,” said Tollman.
To this Chohan replied that she has made good strides in India in clearing up misconceptions about SA and Ebola and that she thinks the same could be done in China.
About the new visa regulations Chohan said “let us implement them and then mitigate afterwards. It is about how we communicate when we put issues on the table. I think we can have a 50% growth in tourism numbers if we all work together”.