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Township team victorious at coding festival

For Nonhlanhla Zembe and her team, Kasi Army, the route to victory and success in a recent coding festival lied in them tapping into their environment.

The team of developers came out first at a two-day technology competition held in Sandton, the brainchild of global giant Microsoft's partnership with local tech non-profit organisations, SAtion and the Empire Foundation.

The challenge for the participants was to find digital solutions to help empower small businesses and propel them to growth. Hailing from numerous townships around Gauteng, Zembe's team is familiar with the dire state of economic activity there, and were able to come up with a solution that addressed the challenge to assist small and medium enterprises access new markets, reduce business costs and increase efficiency and productivity.

The team's innovative Kasi Centric solution, a WhatsApp Biz bot, collects and reports on customer information and business transactional data, through scanning virtual and physical customer cards. The way it works is, shoppers present their virtual or physical card to the vendor to pay for goods and services while the vendor scans the card to document customer payments for goods and services purchased. 

“Our solution was inspired by our own lived experiences of being in the townships. The situation is dire with high unemployment and with the township economy not being controlled by the township dwellers. In that environment, social ills fester and create a hopeless environment. We looked at the problems and worked our way towards a solution. This solution exists to help township owned businesses to leverage technology to offer their products and services to their immediate communities. We leverage various partners that are working to provide solutions to the townships to deliver insight-driven value to our people," Zembe said.

The youthful team came out on top from a total of 114 young digital innovators from across the country.

They consist of 29-year-old Zembe, Sinazo Mona, 32, Bongane Mawele, 22, Mamello Mofokeng, 27, Nkululeko Nkosi,  27,  Mfundo Ntuli, 27, and Alex Thotse, 25. Zembe echoed the summation by Mikhial Mariemuthu, Empire PF's senior manager, who said:  "To be able to see young talented South Africans build innovative solutions through the Microsoft platform showed us that there's a lot of untapped potential in the youth, that can change our country for the better. We look forward to future hackathons and sector related projects,” Mariemuthu said.

"The one thing that we can say to our fellow young people is that if you sacrifice your time to work, learn and open your mind; anything is possible".

Empire Foundation has so far worked with over 1,000 young developers and has incubated more than 188 solutions developed. Twenty one teams are being incubated at the student hub and over a half-million rand has been disbursed as prize taking at the hackathons. 

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