Amazon Web Services (AWS) and South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have signed an agreement that will see 100% black-owned small businesses in the IT sector getting support.

The agreement signed on the sidelines of the SA Investment Conference, will see Amazon invest R365-million in the department’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) equity equivalent investment programme.

AWS said the equity equivalent investment programme, or EEIP, will support black businesses to become cloud computing experts using its partner network. The move comes ahead of AWS opening its first data centre in South Africa next year — in Cape Town.

The original story, syndicated from the SA government’s news agency SAnews, had it that 100 black entrepreneurs would benefit. However, the statement issued by AWS did not clarify how many businesses are set to benefit from the programme..

In the statement  AWS said the initiative will run for seven years and that AWS will support the black-owned small businesses through an 18 to 24-month enterprise development and incubation programme.

The AWS EEIP is a seven-year programme that will support the growth of new black-owned small businesses, helping them to develop their skills in advanced technologies such as cloud computing, Internet of things, machine learning, mobile technologies and more,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

AWS will also provide training and technical expertise in cloud computing resulting in new AWS Certified Developers and Solutions Architects.

The fund aims to help business owners take their business to the next stage of growth. As these businesses complete their training, and gain AWS competencies, they will go up a tier in the APN, becoming Select or Advanced Partners. Participants of the programme will be coached and mentored by industry leaders.

The training will include the development of skills in advanced technologies such as cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning (ML), mobile technologies and more.

Upon completion of the programme, these businesses will have access to AWS’s ecosystem of millions of active customers, of every size, across virtually every industry around the world successful completion of the programme will also enable the businesses to have exposure to opportunities beyond that of AWS.

Multinationals which are unable to sell equity to black partners under the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) codes, because their global practice or policy does not permit it, are allowed to use equity equivalent programmes as an alternative, upon approval from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The department’s director general Lionel October said Amazon has over the last five years made significant investment in data services in South Africa. “They have shown their confidence,” he said.

“The AWS EEIP will lead to the development of numerous highly skilled jobs in the local economy,” said trade & industry minister Ebrahim Patel in the statement.

“The intention of the programme is to give the black-owned small businesses the knowledge, resources and skills to be successful,” Patel said. “This will enable them to provide professional services to organisations in both the private and public sectors, supporting them with their ICT strategy and helping them to take advantage of cloud computing and other digital technologies in order to innovate and grow.”

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