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SMME INVESTMENT: Global giants PepsiCo and Google are investing in South Africa's start-ups – Daily Maverick

PepsiCo launched the R600-million, five-year Kgodiso Development Fund, which is aimed at creating “shared value” solutions by building sustainable food systems that incorporate local employment opportunities, local procurement and supplier diversity.
“PepsiCo aims to play a bigger role in supporting activities that contribute to the long-term sustainability and resilience of South Africa’s food system,” says Tertius Carstens, chief executive of PepsiCo sub-Saharan Africa. “The Kgodiso Development Fund will act as a catalyst to create local jobs, increase local procurement, build small businesses, support education and holistically contribute to black economic empowerment in South Africa.”
PepsiCo executive director Diale Tilo says the Kgodiso Development Fund will prioritise activities that support the growth and scaling of black-owned emerging farming enterprises and small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), promote regenerative agriculture practices and encourage the adoption of innovation to revitalise local production within SA’s agriculture sector.
As a starting point, R300-million has been allocated to agricultural development to assist black-owned emerging farming enterprises to upscale their businesses. “This will help transform the country’s agricultural landscape by developing a new generation of sustainable farming enterprises,” Tilo says.
Another R200-million has been earmarked for education initiatives providing the appropriate training and upskilling, and enhancing the skills pipeline in the country. Carstens says this will assist in unlocking the immense potential of SA’s human capital by addressing key skills and knowledge gaps.
The final R100-million will be allocated to SMMEs to provide incubation and technological support to those small businesses that can provide their goods or services to PepsiCo or its partners. Tilo says this investment seeks to encourage unique innovation, increase competitiveness and drive economic inclusion by building a pipeline of suppliers and entrepreneur networks, and by providing them with a route to market, business development support, funding and mentoring.
The Kgodiso Development Fund is one of PepsiCo’s public interest commitments, made to the government when the company bought Pioneer Foods for R26-billion in 2020.
PepsiCo procures more than 1.5 million tonnes of local maize, wheat, potatoes, oats and raisins every year and employs approximately 13,000 people in 70 warehouses and 45 production facilities on the continent.
Innovative SA start-ups
Meanwhile, tech giant Google has announced the selection of three South African start-ups for the Google for Startups Accelerator Africa Class 7 programme. Multiplied, Nulitics and The Marking App are all South African fintech start-ups that will work with Google mentors and facilitators over the next three months, learning best practices on a range of topics including artificial intelligence, big data, organisational culture and growth strategies.
Over the past four years, the Google for Startups Accelerator Africa Class 7 programme has collectively raised $112-million and created 2,800 direct jobs.
Google for Startups Accelerator Africa programmes are organised around a virtual boot camp concept that includes seminars, one-on-one coaching sessions and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Boot camps will take place in March, April and May.
Folarin Aiyegbusi, the head of Google for Startups’ Ecosystem for Africa, says Google is happy to be part of a journey with African start-ups that are seeking to solve some of the region’s most pressing issues – from employment to logistics, banking, healthcare and education.
Multiplied is a start-up that offers personalised media campaigns, and clients already include well-loved brands such as BMW and events such as the Discovery 947 Ride. Wayne Venter, founder of the second start-up, Nulitics, explains that the company offers extended reality or mixed reality projects.
For example, a doctor inserting a metal plate in a patient can use a lens that allows the doctor to view where the plate needs to be aligned for optimal reconstruction.
“Another example would be skills training in a rural area, where an individual can use a Nulitics wearable device attached to a smart cellphone.
“The person can then access a real-time video call with someone who has experience, for example, in fixing a diesel generator, to talk them through it. The experienced person can also project a 3-D version of the generator and the process to fix it, essentially teaching remotely through a visual medium,” he explains.
The third South African start-up is The Marking App, which provides a data-free application that automatically marks handwritten school assessments while also automating school administration. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.

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