Sustainable Entrepreneurship: South African Start-Ups and The Irish Tech Challenge Connection

By Raine St.Claire

The Irish Tech Challenge, now in its second year, is a premier startup competition focusing on innovative solutions aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Launched in 2022, it has swiftly become a catalyst for innovation in the South African tech community, showcasing effective collaborations between governments and the private sector. The initiative, led by the Embassy of Ireland in South Africa, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), and the Technology Innovation Agency, collaborates with the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct (South Africa) and Dogpatch Labs (Ireland) as implementing partners.

This competition is dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusivity, actively encouraging applications from women, young entrepreneurs, individuals from historically disadvantaged communities, and startups aligned with the UN SDGs. Attracting 266 applications spanning agritech to health tech, the challenge spotlighted the diverse talent in the South African tech landscape.

Lesley-Donna Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, expressed enthusiasm for nurturing these startups, anticipating their evolution and global impact. “The talent and innovation we’ve seen this year are a testament to the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa. Our role in nurturing these startups at the Tshimologong Precinct has been immensely rewarding, and we’re excited to see how they evolve and make their mark globally.”

The chosen startups underwent a rigorous pre-acceleration programme, including workshops, masterclasses, and mentorship sessions. In February 2024, they embarked on a 10-day acceleration programme with Dogpatch Labs in Dublin, Ireland, enhancing networking opportunities and promoting their startups to new markets.



Thato Schermer – Zoie Health; A comprehensive online platform for women’s health and family needs, designed and developed by women to offer accessible healthcare services for women and families.


Neo Hutiri – Pelebox; An intelligent locker system allowing patients to retrieve their recurring chronic medication in less than two minutes.


Vuyo Pakade – Foonda Africa; A Pan-African talent marketplace connecting companies with skilled young candidates to unleash Africa’s next generation of talent.


Benedicta Durcan – AfroBodies; A biotechnology firm specialising in producing recombinant alpaca antibodies for the local and global life sciences, diagnostic, and therapeutic markets.


Tumelo Chiloane – Desert Green; An agritech company focused on revolutionising the informal agri-value chain in South Africa and Africa. It facilitates the efficient supply of fresh produce from small-scale farmers to informal traders. Their B2B e-commerce platform, GreenKart, enables smallscale farmers to list recently-planted crops, aiding them in accessing markets and reducing post-harvest losses.


  • Funding: Up to €10,000 each
  • Trip to Ireland
  • Participation in a business networking programme
  • Access to the Irish tech ecosystem
  • Collaboration and support from Dogpatch Labs to accelerate their global scaling strategy

The Partnership Has Proven Highly Successful

The showcase in Dublin not only celebrates the accomplishments of the five winning entrepreneurs but also serves as a platform for collaboration and knowledge exchange between South Africa and Ireland. Austin Gormley, Ireland’s Ambassador to South Africa, emphasised that the solutions promoted by these entrepreneurs have the potential to create a positive and lasting impact in South Africa and beyond, supporting broader goals of sustainable development.

The initiative showcases the power of collaboration and innovation in addressing global challenges through South African-developed solutions combined with Irish expertise and represents a significant stride in ongoing efforts to bridge the gap between South African ingenuity and global markets, contributing significantly to sustainable economic development.

“The Irish Tech Challenge South Africa stands as a shining example of how bilateral relations can drive progress in the tech industry. The tech challenge has not only facilitated the exchange of ideas but has also laid the foundation for enduring partnerships that will continue to shape the technological landscape for years to come.” –The DSI’s Deputy Director -General: International Cooperation and Resources, Mr Daan du Toit

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