Sunday, 11 October 2020

‘Small businesses can reduce suffering in South Africa’


It’s been six years, but Jacques Sibomana remembers clearly the day he witnessed an unemployed single mother being sentenced to prison for stealing a pair of shoes to allow her five-year-old daughter to attend school. 

This is one of the many heartbreaking stories Jacques encountered while he was working at a non-profit organization that helps rehabilitate people found guilty of crimes. 

These cases inspired Jacques to launch a business that aims to help people before they turn to crime, by spurring jobs in townships in particular. Jacques also hopes it will help South Africans who were hit by the COVID-19 economic crisis to start their own small businesses. 

Despite its humble beginnings, the business, known as Kuba Technologies, has garnered national as well as international attention. 

TMTV Media spoke to Jacques about his roots and his vision for Kuba Technologies, launched in 2017.

 Please give us a bit of background about yourself. Who is Jacques Sibomana? 

I grew up in Kanyamazane township outside Nelspruit, now known as Mbombela. This is also where I started my first business, which was a gardening service, while I was in Grade 7. 

From Grade 7 to 8, I started selling fruit and vegetables door to door and later turned to mowing lawns because I discovered it was more lucrative.

In order to fund my studies, I worked as a vendor at Strand beach in Cape Town, where I sold various goods like sunscreen, sunglasses and caps.

After 2010 I started working for the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO).

Through my work at NICRO, I realized that, to reduce crime and especially the number of young people getting involved in it, we need to empower small business owners to build sustainable businesses that can create jobs in their communities.

What inspired you to start Kuba?

The inspiration for Kuba comes from a number of things, including my work at NICRO, where I discovered the need to create jobs in underserved communities. I believe that, by empowering local businesses, we can achieve this.

Tell us about Kuba and the services you offer.

Kuba offers a basket of services designed to build sustainable small businesses. Our services include: an e-procurement platform that allows corporates and individuals to buy from local small businesses, Grow My Biz marketing and administrative services for small businesses, and online courses designed to support individuals looking to start a small business, or to support small business owners looking to polish their business skills.

What have been some of Kuba’s highlights and greatest achievements?

Our highlights were when we connected township entrepreneurs to over R15 million in opportunities, as well as having our users referring Kuba to friends and family.

Who is your target audience?

 We target township-based entrepreneurs and community members, but you can use Kuba from anywhere in South Africa.

 Who are your personal and/or business role models and what are the characteristics in that person or business you wish to emulate?

Mark Zuckerberg – because of the way he has inspired and connected people all over the world, making it possible for many people to create industries and businesses that did not exist before Facebook.

What are some of the greatest lessons you have learned as an entrepreneur?

To always listen to your customers and users, as they have a better knowledge of the product they want or need.

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