The Barn Is Empowering Budding South African Entrepreneurs

The Barn

Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn popularly known as The Barn is supporting entrepreneurs and organizations to create products and services. These products and services boost the economies of townships. Khayelitsha is home to innovative businesses. The Barn is the first of its kind. Describing the essence of the co-working space, Fazeka Mavuso, the Business Development Manager said,

โ€œWe wanted local entrepreneurs to have an office space where they can grow their businesses, where they can hold business meetings, a professional space where we promote the use of technology in business in the townships.โ€

The Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn is located at the Lookout Hill. This location is significant because it lies in the heart of Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain Development Corridor. Consequently, prominent Khayelitsha businesses like ABCD Concepts, Discover iKasi, and 18 Gangster Museum use the Barnโ€™s services.

How it all started

The property which now prides itself as a technology hub used to be a township hall. In 2015, the hall was renovated into a tech hub, The Barn. Run by the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi), the aim of the facility is to drive โ€˜technology inclusivenessโ€™. In other words, the non-profit company wants technology to be accessible to all. The provincial government and the City of Cape Town are the main funding partners of the technology hub. Mavuso highlights the initial challenges of the tech hub.

โ€When we came to Khayelitsha, one of the challenges we faced is that we could not attract tech entrepreneurs. So we had to find out what the reason was. We were looking for programmers, coders and anyone who has a technology business. When you talk about technology to them itโ€™s like you are talking about something foreign. But they have got technology tools in their hands. A smartphone is a technology: it has Whatsapp, Facebook, those simple tools that one can use for their business. But they do not know about this. We are running digital training to teach these things, even basic things like assisting them in creating an email account, and how to send an email.โ€

Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn is CiTiโ€™s second location. The Barn encourages the local community to take part in creative and social space. Leveraging on this they can produce products and services that will impact on their environment. For two years, the Barn offered its services for free. Entrepreneurs who join must be operational, registered, and legally compliant businesses.

Facilities and services offered by The Barn

The Barn has a lab equipped with 40 computers. This is used for teaching basic literacy courses. However, it also has a skills development section where they train entrepreneurs on Information Technology (IT). In July 2018, CiTi launched the I-CAN Play Center at the Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn. This was an initiative of the Western Cape Government in partnership with VS Gaming and Lenovo. The I-CAN Play Center is open on Tuesday and Saturday for regular tournaments and gaming.

Khayelitsha Bandwidth Barn also has office spaces where entrepreneurs and their staff can work or hold meetings. It has a lounge with free WiFi. Other services available at the Barn include administrative support, printing services, marketing, branding assistance, financing, and crowdfunding. Mavuso hopes the Barn would grow into other townships. However, the main focus at the moment is to grow the Khayelitsha branch.

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