Witsies shine at intervarsity entrepreneurship finals
- Wits University
Tech entrepreneur wins for financial inclusion platform and medical student recognised for enabling tech efficiency and savings in spaza shops.
Wits University recorded three achievements at the recent Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) Intervarsity finals held from 30 November to 1 December 2023.
This year more than 1200 hopefuls from 25 universities around the country had hoped to reach the EDHE finals.
Wits’ Asif Aziz, was the named the winner of the Tech category for his platform Libex and walked away with a cash prize of R20 000. This platform offers a suite of products and services that enable creators to monetise their work and manage their digital assets. It also enables fractionalised ownership of real assets which allows for more investors and thereby advances financial inclusion.
A believer in the power of technology in making a difference if applied correctly, Aziz says ‘the most amazing thing about winning is the social proof, confirmation that we are on the right track and our project has the making to disrupt the market.”
He will invest the prize money into marketing in order to penetrate the market. “As with any disruptive tech the challenge is adoption and a lot of focus must be given to marketing,” says the Masters student at the Wits Businesses School where he is exploring Disruptive Technologies for Promoting Financial Inclusion in South Africa.
Lethabo Maphopha, a fourth-year medical student and founder of Brought Cargo, also represented Wits at the finals. BroughtCargo is an innovative e-commerce platform that empowers spaza shops and street vendors. Although not a category winner, his initiative resonated deeply with the judges, who recognised its potential to transform the lives of underserved communities. BroughtCargo addresses a critical gap in the supply chain for informal retailers, providing them with access to bulk suppliers, facilitating shared shipping costs, and enabling them to compete more effectively in the marketplace.
The start-up currently services spazas in Gauteng townships such as Soweto, Tembisa, Katlehong, and some in Limpopo province.
Expansion is on the cards for the venture which already employs seven delivery transport owners.
Speaking on the journey thus far has been interesting and rewards. “This year we were mostly serving the early adopters of BroughtCargo. Most of the spaza shops were not used to buying goods online, and so our efforts were focused on building relationships and getting them to doing things in a new way by buying their bulk products online on our system.
Next year, I want to serve some of the spaza shops that are in other African countries, because most of them come to South Africa to stock some of the products. With BroughtCargo, we can help them to source the products with ease and transport them to their countries,” says Maphopha who also won the Social Innovator Award at the Wits Student Leadership Awards.
Wits recognised for nurturing Entrepreneurs
Wits’ commitment to fostering entrepreneurship was further recognised at the EDHE ceremony, through the prestigious DVC of the Year award presented to Professor Lyn Morris, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Innovation and Research. This award demonstrates and affirms the sector’s acknowledgement of the strides that Wits has made in respect to innovation and promotion of entrepreneurship.
Aziz and Maphopha are amongst young entrepreneurs who have received support from the Student Entrepreneurship Education Development (SEED) programme. The SEED programme is overseen by the Deputy Dean of Student Affairs, Tshegofatso Mogaladi, and operationally coordinated in 2023 by Linda Hasi who played a critical role through facilitation of masterclasses, mock-pitch sessions, mentorship as well as generally preparing students for the EDHE finals.
Wits University is also a member of the African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec), a pan-African collaboration of technology-focused universities from across the African continent. Tech entrepreneurs benefit through workshops and potential mentorship. The network, led by Carnegie Mellon University Africa (CMU-Africa), has over 20 million US dollars available for network members to engage in collaborative activity that drives inclusive digital transformation in Africa through engineering and technology. The network is generously supported by a recently announced investment from the Mastercard Foundation in CMU-Africa.