On 7 July, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng and a University of Cape Town confederation hosted the Swiss Ministerial Delegation at the New Engineering Building at UCT. The visit formed part of a bilateral education, research and innovation cooperation between Switzerland and South Africa which began in 2019.
The event started off with VC Professor Phakeng welcoming the delegation as well as opening remarks on behalf of the Swiss delegation from Mr Guy Parmelin, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.
The event focused on financial technology and its applications on the continent. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, Africa’s digital economy is expected to contribute roughly R2.9 trillion to the region’s growth by 2025.
With an education system not producing the necessary skills for the labour market, it’s the government, private sector and educational institutions’ responsibility to address the skills gap and decrease youth unemployment. UCT offers a unique perspective and teaches skills that are in demand.
In 2018, UCT developed the only dedicated FinTech Master’s programme in Africa – the Master of Philosophy specialising in Financial Technology. The course is convened by Associate Professor Co-Pierre Georg who is also the director of the Algorand-UCT Financial Innovation Hub. Associate Professor Georg spoke about the need to address individuals who are excluded from the digital economy.
There were three pitches from Julian Kanjere (founder and CTO of FoodPrint Labs), Lucia Newnham (COO of Nautilus) and Abraham Cambridge (founder and COO of The Sun Exchange). All companies presented a unique solution, using blockchain, to the various problems faced in South Africa and Africa.
With 70% of the food supply produced by smallholder and subsistence farmers, FoodPrint is a farm-to-fork marketplace connecting farmers, buyers and service providers using WhatsApp." – Julian Kanjere
Through the use of blockchain, Nautilus allows data creators to own their data. “Nautilus is the next step in the evolution of cloud computing,” says VC Professor Phakeng.
With rolling blackouts from ESKOM, and an unpredictable, unreliable system – Sun Exchange uses solar power to keep schools, businesses and organisations across South Africa powered while closing the funding gap for energy.
Mathias Ruch, CEO and co-founder of Crypto Valley Venture Capital (CV VC), also spoke of the pending launch of CV Labs Cape Town on Friday, 8 July. “The CV Labs will run incubation programmes and help start-ups develop.” CV VC invests in early-stage startups and has a private-public partnership with the Swiss government.
Mathias says that CV VC has invested in 50 startups with 12 from Africa in the regions of Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Egypt.
This visit from the Swiss delegation will reinforce investment in South Africa and the continent as well as facilitate the essential growth in Africa’s digital economy.