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At Amazon Web Services (AWS), we believe that building diverse teams allows us to innovate better for our customers. To work toward this, in 2019, AWS South Africa launched the AWS Equity Equivalent Investment Program (AWS EEIP), as part of its Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) program. The AWS EEIP is a partner development and acceleration program for 100% black-owned small IT businesses in South Africa.

Applications for the 2021 intake are now open.

Empowering black-owned small businesses

According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), small business ownership in South Africa reflects patterns of racial and gender-based inequality in the broader South African society, and as the size of businesses grows, the rates of black and female ownership decline.

EEIPs are South African Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) approved initiatives, aimed at providing multinational companies with an opportunity to take part in local societal development and contribute towards economic advancement and inclusion of black people and black-owned businesses in South Africa.

The AWS EEIP is an 18- to 24-month enablement and acceleration program for businesses with a turnover under R50 million. The program is designed to help these businesses onboard to AWS and accelerate their journey to becoming Select and Advanced Tier Consulting or Technology Partners on the AWS Partner Network (APN).

South Africa’s small businesses employ between 50 and 60% of the workforce and generate about 34% of the country’s GDP. The South Africa in the digital age: pathways to digital work report estimates that the South African tech industry can create 500,000 jobs over the next ten years.

Thriving small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are vital in achieving this and other job creation goals but face constraints such as limited access to funding, skilled labour, technology and networks, which can limit their growth. AWS EEIP gives these businesses a range of resources and support not only to achieve the AWS Partner Network (APN) tier requirements but build sustainable, scalable businesses which contribute to South Africa’s skills development and job creation imperative.

By participating in the program, SMEs get advisory and technical support including:

  • The AWS Partner Transformation Program (PTP); a comprehensive assessment, training, and enablement program focused on helping partners build a successful and profitable AWS Cloud business
  • Cloud Center of Excellence bootcamps and enterprise development consulting, which can help partners operationalize their PTP
  • Headcount subsidies, which give partners much needed financial support to hire and expand teams
  • AWS Training and Certification
  • Cash grants to pay for operating expenses, go-to-market funding, AWS Promotional Credit, and fully subsidized APN fees

What applicants can expect

The program is open to qualifying small businesses in South Africa who want to become AWS Partners in the public and/or commercial sectors.

Currently a Registered Tier Partner, Reliance Cloud is a Johannesburg-based practice whose mission is to provide businesses with the technology they need to compete in a web-based world. Started in 2020 by two brothers, Simon and Dennis Herold, Reliance Cloud focuses on serving the comprehensive needs of SME broadcasting, media, and telecommunications businesses and offers AWS media services to transport, prepare, process, and deliver live and on-demand content in the cloud. These managed services allow customers to build and adapt video workflows quickly, to eliminate capacity planning, easily scale with growth, and benefit from a pay-as-you- go pricing model.

Herold notes that the most unexpected benefits of the AWS EEIP were the inclusion of the PTP. Usually partner funded, the PTP is fully funded by AWS South Africa for EEIP participants.

“We also did a [Cloud Centre of Excellence] bootcamp straight after the PTP which was more business driven than technical. This gave us a rounded view of where we should be going.”

Herold also highlighted the AWS Promotional Credit, which enabled the Reliance Cloud team to tinker, explore, and learn on AWS as well as the APN portal. “The support that we get – we have so many interactions with the different AWS teams – we never feel like we are alone. This makes a big difference for an SME; we have multiple pillars of support. There is always someone we can reach out to.”

  • Zakhona Ndlovu (EEIP Program Manager) & Philani Mkhize (Professional Services Consultant: SA)

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