The journey to prosperity for Aasiyah Adams, the founder and CEO of Abaguquli4IR and one of the Top 10 finalists in the MTN Foundation’s Women in Digital Business Challenge, has taken several years. However, she is now a lifetime away from her days in the Cape Flats and an early job as an optometrist’s receptionist in the troubled neighbourhood of Mitchell’s Plain, and for her success has been starting a company aimed at training people as drone pilots as a way of helping people enter IT and create better lives, and three years later, gearing up to teach 4 000 students in a host of other courses.

Abaguquli4IR, the Abaguquli meaning ‘transformers’ in isiZulu and the 4IR signifying the 4th Industrial Revolution, incorporates a non-profit company providing skills to the unemployed and is now readying itself for expansion.

In the company’s sights are new African markets. Continuing its legacy in the nation of its birth will be offices and drone schools in the Western Cape, three schools in Johannesburg and another in Durban.

Already, work is beginning to come from Botswana.

Aasiyah’s prize money of R100 000, part of the total R1 million offered to Women in Digital Business Challenge finalists, will be used to get courses accredited. Also planned is new training to help young unemployed South Africans acquire skills needed in the ‘gig economy.’ In this booming market, people with the right skills can become digital entrepreneurs or find online jobs and assignments.

“One of our signature courses is the Digital Entrepreneurship Programme, which addresses many of the scarce skills needed in the gig economy. Mentors also offer participants guidance and networking opportunities to complete the offering,” says Aasiyah, adding those sponsors and strategic partnerships with various SETAs, development agencies and corporates, support Abaguquli4IR’s work.

The skills development projects have assisted more than 600 youths from Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, and Gauteng who have registered skills on major gig databases or launched successful businesses that service clients locally and abroad.

As part of its strategy to deliver knowledge, Abaguquli4IR also offers digital business conferences that focus on IT trends and the future of technology. Audiences range from women in business to unemployed graduate students and even child entrepreneurs. Other services include entrepreneurship matchmaking sessions between emerging business entrepreneurs and corporates.

In what is believed to be a South African first, Abaguquli4IR launched a conference dedicated to the gig economy during November 2023 in Johannesburg. Experts from the gig world, government, and academia were also on hand to discuss the latest trends and challenges in the sector and provide information on what is needed to succeed in this new field of work.

Her advice to young entrepreneurs wishing to move into the tech sector is that they first do a self-audit on their skills and capabilities.

“It’s often hard for budding businesspeople to admit they don’t know everything. But, acknowledging this fact and seeking strategic partnerships with people with the right skills can accelerate growth and help build a sustainable business. Then, your energy can be focused on what you do best, while any small business’s biggest challenges, identifying markets and bringing in customers, can be primary objectives,” she says.

“One of the significant achievements of the MTN SA Foundation’s Women in Digital Business Challenge is that it has identified women entrepreneurs who bring a passion for transformation and development to the fore,” says Lesimola Selepe, Senior Manager: Community Programmes at the MTN Foundation.

“By assisting them with further business training and assisting the top 10 candidates with R100 000 each, we are further empowering these women to build their personal and business brands in a competitive sector where they can offer inspiration to other women wanting to enter STEM-orientated careers.”

“Women like Aasiyah Adams, who rose from humble beginnings to a leadership position,   show that South Africa’s female entrepreneurs have what it takes to set the pace in the tech sector.”.

“It is a privilege for the MTN SA Foundation to help them on their journeys.”

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