In May 2016, Neo Hutiri won the Hack.Jozi challenge. He used his prize money to develop his smart medicine-dispensing locker system that could have become a game-changer for township communities. But more than two years later, his innovation has not taken off. Barry Dwolatzky, professor of software engineering at Wits University, sees this too often. “Research studies that have been done in Gauteng show that there’s a lack of connection between established and early-stage businesses in the province. There is no spider web that we see in the Silicon Valley value chain, where older businesses give birth to new businesses,” he said in a panel discussion during SA’s first impact investing conference on Thursday. Hutiri’s story is one that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and early-stage investment companies who took part in the conference see too often. It has become a way of life, they say, simply because SA’s economy is not built with small businesses in mind. In countries li...

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