Poonum Thylam, Manager at the Ebene Accelerator, spoke to AfricaMoney on how the accelerator has succeeded in providing synergies of co-location to entrepreneurs and helped them overcome the solitude of the entrepreneurial work environment. Our economic expert also noted that Mauritius must prepare itself for the mobile application boom which is just a door away for a more connected society. She stressed that the IT and computing sector is forecast to continue to expand and employment in the sector over the next decade is projected to grow at least 5-fold faster than average.
What have been the major achievements of Ebene Accelerator since inception in 2013?
I would like to point out that since its creation in July last year it has been a real success in as much as we are above 93% of our initial target. The Ebene Accelerator (EA) started with four companies/projects which represented only 22% of the seats at 13 and now we are proud to say that we have 14 new companies/projects with 58 seats having been taken up by July 2014.
The synergies that co-location brought to entrepreneurs helped them to overcome the solitude of the entrepreneurial work environment. For instance, GOLFACE – a mobile app for the first Golfers Mobile Social Network – is one of the examples of a shared project where companies Reefcube and Zango worked together on the project to make it a success.
Also, a list of successful projects within the accelerator would be incomplete without the mention of Reefcube’s work in designing the Labour Ministry’s job website to help job seekers and recruiters, as well as their mobile apps such as b-there, Luxury Mauritius, Gift Box and Scomat.
Further, Mobimove came to the fore with the OrangeCare and L’Express mobile apps, among others. Besides, Zango provided ZP, a convergent solution which includes publishing, content management and notification modules.
Finally, Autograph Ltd launched internet TV site Channel Business Africa (mauricetv.com) and Pongosoft Ltd designed payment portal Pongopay, bio-product website Lavieclaire.com and tour website Sirandanne.com.
With the different competitions which have taken place through EA, what is your assessment of Mauritian potential?
There is enormous potential in the ICT sector and I am proud that EA is contributing positively towards the development of this sector.
On the other hand, recruiters within EA reported difficulties employing software developers and programmers, and found some skills were likely to be in short supply.
The IT and computing sector is forecast to continue to expand, and to be a key element of business growth. Employment in the sector over the next decade is projected to grow at least 5-fold faster than average.
Many small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the industry provide a range of specialist services, particularly in consultancy and technical roles. Common jobs for graduates are software designers and engineers; web developers and producers; computer analysts and programmers; web designers, IT consultants; help desk technicians.
I believe with the expected expansion in this sector, the Ebene Accelerator can change its very nature and become more than a booster but rather as a development forecast agency.
According to you, how can the Ebene Accelerator contribute to the development of new companies and boost entrepreneurship and leadership among Mauritian youngsters?
Ebene Accelerator as an incubator is a platform for creativity and innovation as well as technical and scientific human resources, backed financially by the government and the private sector, in order to make these incubators attractive for foreign direct investments and serve as a strategic road map for the promotion of industrialization and ICT.
We need to focus on knowledge and innovation to build an integrated system that will help us emerge as a knowledge economy and compete at the global level. This is where industrial incubators are important. Ebene Accelerator links and will continue to link with educational institutions and the business community with stimulating ideas and turning them into viable projects.
With the economic recession, do you think there is much room for entrepreneurship, or is there only limited scope for start-ups?
Global observers predict that we are at the beginning of the end of the present recession. Even the American economy is getting gradually out of this recession. In this context, the importance of an agency like the Ebene Accelerator will be more relevant in its efforts to boost entrepreneurship.
Do you think that Mauritius can soon transform itself into a regional ICT hub?
All that has been done up to now in the context of ICT in Mauritius, including the creation of a Ministry dedicated to it, demonstrate our willingness and the faith in our capacity to make this sector one of our pillars of the economy of our country. The possibility of expansion of this sector is enormous and we should prepare our youth accordingly.
Finally, please give your views on the way forward for the Mauritian economy.
As I said earlier, there is no doubt that if the right resources are tapped and the right developmental policies are made that the ICT sector will be one of the fundamental pillars not only of the Mauritian economy but of the Mauritian society itself.
[Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview]
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