Vox has given a shot in the arm to the development of communication infrastructure and services in Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape, with its latest Enterprise and Supplier Development initiative.

Vox CEO Jacques du Toit says that there is a growing body of research that connectivity has a direct impact on the economic prospects of a region. “Any investment needs to have a return, and the socioeconomic return of investing in communication infrastructure is compelling. We set out to support a secondary city such as Makhanda so that the population there can unlock the education and economic benefits made possible by fibre and world-class information communications technology (ICT) services,” he says.

Du Toit says that there is little merit in embarking on an Enterprise and Supplier Development initiative unless there is a clear strategy to benefit people and the region. “This is our third initiative, and so we have brought that prior experience into this 51% black-owned initiative. We identified local talent Vezi Zantsi and Thinus Jurgens and brought in skills to support them where necessary with the orientation that as they develop the enterprise, they will upskill the local talent,” he says.

The key, says Du Toit, is that the arrangement is not exclusive in nature. “Yes, we have enabled this initiative, and carry the hard start-up costs, but ultimately this entity is going to be free to supply and provide services for whomever they choose. That is real empowerment, and because they are internet service provider (ISP) agnostic, the people of Makhanda will be the ultimate winners. That was our goal – to make a meaningful black economic empowerment investment and support a secondary city, which in this case is largely dependent on students and tourism, which has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he says.

Zantsi says that the initiative has the potential to dramatically change the connectivity landscape of the city. “Vox has certainly given us the runway we need to take advantage of the opportunity to serve the people of Makhanda. The driving force behind the initiative is to build a long-term, sustainable company that will render technical services to ISPs and the community,” he says.

Jurgens, who is known to many in the business community in Makhanda, says the initiative has the potential to elevate the city’s capabilities to that of primary cities. “Frogfoot, a subsidiary of Vox, owns and will maintain the fibre network. Our opportunity is in doing home installations, and working with companies such as Vox, among others down the line, to provide a full ICT service to clients, bringing the city on par with the major cities in South Africa,” he says. “As we grow, there is an exciting opportunity for locals to be upskilled.”