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SAs travel and tourism has a heavy weight to carry.

Given the country’s abundant natural beauty, the sector has traditionally been a vital cog in SA’s economic growth engine, and it is now expected to drive the country’s economic recovery. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s economic impact report, the sector is expected to grow at an annual rate above 7% over the next decade, far outpacing SA’s overall economic growth rate and is also expected to create more than 800,000 jobs to reach more than 1.9-million by 2032.

However, the sector is still struggling to recover from the impact of Covid-19, which shuttered many hotels and had an outsized negative impact on small business owners in tourism and hospitality. Despite support from the government and financial institutions in a bid to keep these businesses afloat during the pandemic, it is expected the tourism sector will take time to rebalance, with a multiyear recovery to 2019 levels.

In addition, Covid-19 radically changed consumer behaviour. Digital connectivity and transformation accelerated rapidly during the pandemic due to successive lockdowns in many countries. Even prior to Covid-19, tourism services were gravitating to a digital-first model, with technology-driven platforms such as AirBnB and Booking.com, among others, changing the structure of the industry by altering barriers to entry, facilitating price comparisons and transforming distribution channels through the internet.

As a result, digital skills such as online marketing and communication, social media management and data analytics are becoming increasingly important to the sector and its employees. However, there is a significant gap in SA between supply and demand for current and future skill levels in these skills.

For small businesses, particularly, to capitalise on and help drive the promise tourism and hospitality holds, they first must be in the game. This means having a website, with tagged content, to be visible, connecting to and integrating their systems with booking aggregator sites, creating apps to improve the user experience of travellers, managing logistics, ensuring cybersecurity and data protection and analysing customer behaviour to maximise return visits and traveller satisfaction.

Given the acceleration in the use of and demand for digital skills, small businesses increasingly need the same digital skills as, for example a multinational professional services firm – but on a fraction of a budget. The tourism industry can collaborate with small operators to create shared solutions to this challenge.

But the primary issue remains the shortage of digital skills in SA. By equipping young South Africans with digital literacy, coding, data analysis and other technical competencies, SA can enhance their employability, promote entrepreneurship and unlock the potential of the sector in an increasingly digital world. Developing this pipeline of digital skills is essential to creating new job opportunities and boosting economic growth and competitiveness.

As a not-for-profit company mandated to develop and manage a national digital skills strategy, The Collective X believes a collaborate approach to this challenge is essential to radically boosting the supply of quality digital skills in the economy and increasing employment opportunities for the country’s unemployed youth.

The Collective X is part of an initiative being driven by Business Unity SA and Business Leadership SA , in partnership with the government, to explore opportunities within the private sector to significantly scale employment for excluded youth, even within the context of constrained economic growth.

Over the past 36 months, we have mobilised operators to support this objective in several of SA’s key economic sectors, while collaborating with the government through the inter-departmental coordinating committee for digital skills to unblock the barriers to developing the digital skills SA so urgently needs. 

We aim to transform SA’s digital landscape and bridge the gap between the supply and demand of digital skills through a national partner network of digital skills training providers, employers seeking digital skills, policymakers, technology vendors and education providers. The goal is to deliver the right training at the right time for the right price, to impact SA’s future in the right way.

The use of digital technology is one of the key strategies tourism and hospitality can leverage to speed the revitalisation of the sector. Despite the pandemic, small businesses in this sector can recover and thrive if they build resilience, adapt to the new normal and position themselves for success in a digital future.

This article was written by Andy Searle. It was published in the Sowetan

 📷 by Cristina Villar Martin

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Given the country’s abundant natural beauty, the sector has traditionally been a vital cog in SA’s economic growth engine, and it is now expected to drive the country’s economic recovery.

Ziaad Suleman

Chief Commercial Officer, EOH

Ziaad is the Chief Commercial Officer and Member of Exco at EOH, one of the largest technology services companies in Africa, where he is responsible for the overall go-to-market proposition, which includes sales, consulting, channel and OEMs, commercial constructs, investments, solutioning and marketing, as well as the Software Technology Business.

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Ziaad holds a postgraduate honours degree in Law with distinction from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an MDP Business Management degree with distinction from the GIBS

Vukani Mngxati

CEO, Accenture Africa

Vukani is the CEO of Accenture Africa, a role that showcases his extensive consulting experience and deep understanding of local markets on the continent. He has dedicated over two decades to leveraging his technical expertise and business acumen to deliver impactful digital solutions for both public and private sector clients. 

In 2019, Vukani was appointed Commissioner for the Presidential Commission on the 4th Industrial Revolution. This role underscores his commitment to advancing digital technologies.

Vukani is deeply invested in assisting clients to achieve the agility needed to thrive in today’s fast-paced environment. He is a strong advocate for the adoption of emerging digital technologies, believing that these are not just tools for improving service delivery and financial performance but also pivotal in nation-building across the African continent. 

He holds a BCom degree in Business Information Systems and Accounting from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Pieter de Villiers

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Pieter is the co-founder and CEO of Clickatell, a frontrunner in the chat commerce space and the first African company to receive backing from American venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. Under Pieter’s leadership, Clickatell has flourished into a global company with operations spanning multiple continents. 

Pieter has over 23 years of experience in global telecoms, mobile messaging, and mobile payments, 10 of which he spent in Silicon Valley. Apart from his corporate achievements, Pieter is deeply invested in fostering entrepreneurship as a catalyst for economic and job growth. He is a business mentor for Endeavour and the founder and chairman of SiMODiSA, an organisation focused on accelerating start-up success for South African entrepreneurs. He is also committed to enhancing digital skills in Africa, which he views as a more significant opportunity than mining or agriculture. 

Pieter has been recognised for his exceptional leadership and contributions to the mobile industry by numerous industry organisations and publications, including Global Technology Business (GTB), which named him one of its “top 40 under 40” executives in 2011, and the San Jose Business Journal, which awarded him its Social Economic Impact Award in 2012. 

Nicola Galombik

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Nicola is a business leader and social innovator, driving multi-sector partnerships for systems change and inclusive economic participation.

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Nicola was a Fulbright Scholar and holds a bachelor’s degree in Film, Politics and Psychology from Wits University and a master’s degree in Cinema and Media Studies from New York University. She has also completed the  Leadership for Systems Change programme at Harvard.

Evan Jones

CEO, The Collective X

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Evan also served as chairman of BPESA from Nov 2018 to Oct 2021.

Mteto Nyati

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Aside from corporate success, Mteto authored the best-selling autobiography “Betting on a Darkie,” recounting his journey from a shopkeeper’s son to a respected business leader. Committed to mentorship, he guides executives, CEOs, and emerging professionals. In 2021, the University of Johannesburg awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions to IT Management. Mteto, a World Fellow at Yale University in 2004, holds a BSc degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of KwaZulu Natal, reflecting the technical foundation underpinning his business achievements.

Samantha Chetty

Samantha is the Finance Executive for Funder Management at The Collective X. With 28 years of financial experience, 17 of which are in non-profit organisations, she has expertise in both national and international fund/grants management, stakeholder management across government and private sector, as well as establishing and designing financial systems for complex funder reporting, as well as building and capacitating all internal teams and external partners. Samantha holds a Masters in Business Administration from Regenesys Business School of South Africa.

Pontso Ntseuoa

Pontso is responsible for University Engagements at The Collective X, bringing over 20 years of diverse experience in both corporate and entrepreneurial settings. She has worked in a number of industries, including development funding, renewable energy, telecoms, and business consulting. Her previous roles include significant contributions at the Industrial Development Corporation and co-founding U-Network Telecoms (UNTEL). She holds a Masters in Digital Business and International Business and Entrepreneurship, amongst other qualifications.

Nkululeko Gama CA (SA)

As the Financial Accountant for The Collective X, Nkululeko plays a key role in maintaining the financial integrity and operational efficiency of the organisation. His responsibilities include assisting with the drafting of business cycle policies, handling various aspects of contracting, processing accounting transactions, reviewing accounting journals, and compiling management accounts. Nkululeko is a chartered accountant registered with SAICA.

Lebohang Mosikili

Lebo’s adept communication and problem-solving abilities contribute to the efficient functioning of the entire team. In the dynamic tech landscape, Lebo is the indispensable force behind the efficiency, and smooth-running, of The Collective X’s operations.

Jennifer Kann

As the Marketing and Communications Lead for The Collective X, Jennifer brings a wealth of experience from her 25-year career in the field. Beginning her journey as a journalist, she quickly transitioned into a corporate communications specialist. For the last 12 years, her focus has been dedicated to youth employment and related issues, highlighting her commitment to making a meaningful impact in this crucial area.

Hina Soni

Hina is the Programme Manager for The Collective X and plays a pivotal role in driving and enabling technology platforms for the mobilisation of organisation. Her focus extends to partnerships and solutions, which help bridge the digital skills gap and grow the talent pipeline in South Africa. With her qualifications and extensive experience in management consulting, she has worked across industries to deliver customer strategies and innovative technology platforms.

Fran Swart

As the head of Partnerships and Strategic Client Engagements at The Collective X, Fran is deeply invested in addressing unemployment in South Africa. Her role involves creating impactful solutions to bridge the digital skills gap in the country. Through her work, Fran has contributed to the establishment of a national digital skills initiative, coordinating efforts to deliver essential digital skills efficiently and effectively.

Dianne Woodward

With a Bachelor of Commerce degree and over 35 years of experience in human capital management and management consulting, Dianne plays a pivotal role as the System’s Architect leading the establishment and mobilisation of The Collective X. Her extensive background and expertise are instrumental in driving the organisation’s initiatives and growth.

Deidre Samson

Deidre is the Executive for Insights & Strategic Supply Side Partnerships for The Collective X. She brings a rich background in corporate marketing, strategy and innovation, fostered through her experiences in private banking and at a leading multinational alcoholic beverage company. She is a member of several expert panels, including the United Nations Development Programme and Interpol, and also contributes as a faculty member at the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Free State’s MBA Programme.

Evan Jones

Evan is the CEO, and member of the board, of The Collective X and leading the charge as the initiative sets to double South Africa’s output of high-demand digital jobs in the next three years while simultaneously enhancing youth digital skills, boosting employment and injecting a substantial R300 billion into the economy.

Charity Phakathi

Charity serves as the Finance Executive for The Collective X. Her responsibilities include overseeing Opex and Sustainability, Governance policies, Financial Modeling, Legal and Contracting, as well as preparing Annual Financial Statements for the entity. She has 30 years of experience in finance, primarily in the corporate and banking sectors. Charity is a Wits Alumni with various qualifications in Financial Accounting and Tax.

Andy Searle

With a rich history in the Global Business Services (GBS) sector, Andy is the founder of Paladin Consulting and former CEO of industry body BPESA (2017-2022). He’s been a part of The Collective X team since 2022, focusing on government relations and fostering partnerships for digital skills development.

Tim Andrews

Tim focuses on Partner Enablement and Funding Innovation at The Collective X, leading initiatives to bridge the digital skills gaps in South Africa. He has worked in corporate finance and private equity and also founded a technology business, taking Google’s Enterprise and cloud solutions to market as a premier partner in South Africa. Tim holds an Honours degree in Investment Management from the University of Johannesburg.