South Africa’s Ex-Convicts Set To Become Tech Entrepreneurs

A new program for former convicts in South Africa could impact on the country’s new wave of entrepreneurs. Earlier this year, businessman Xolane Ndhlovu launched the South African Entrepreneurship Centre For Ex- Offenders (SAECEO). The program is designed to provide former inmates with entrepreneurial skills in the online industry and ecommerce markets.

South African Entrepreneurship Centre For Ex- Offenders, SAECEO is the first private program of this kind in South Africa. It provides business guidance and support within the field of technology, which includes coding and programming, as well as business management, SEO and marketing, website building, fund raising, budget administration, and other business skills.

South Africa’s former convicts make up one of the highest unemployed social groups in the region. The lack of employment available to individuals with a criminal record makes it difficult for them to turn their life around. This frequently leads them to return to a life of crime, often landing back in prison.

On the other hand, ex-offenders tend to develop many useful traits for business due to their often-challenging upbringing. They often work well under high pressure and have a competitive demeanor, all of which translate well to the world of entrepreneurship. Taking risks is also a familiar territory to them. A study by University of California-Berckeley found that “Smart teenagers who engage in illicit activities are more likely to become successful entrepreneurs than equally intelligent, rule-abiding teenagers.”

There are numerous notable examples of ex-convicts that have thrived in the business world, including Sir Francis Drake, Charles Ponzi, Frank Lucas, Frank Abagnale, just to name a few. “They can be very determined and creative people; they just need the guidance to get them started” said Xolane Ndhlovu.

Ndhlovu is the president of the UMEH Group, a major South African technology conglomerate. He also serves as Chairman in several other organizations. Having also started from humble beginnings, Ndhlovu was able to turn his life around becoming one of the most successful self-made millionaires in South Africa. Ndhlovu is the founder and President of the South African Entrepreneurship Centre For Ex- Offenders (SAECEO).

Ndhlovu says that the program intends to prepare ex-offenders for the economic opportunities and challenges in the international technology market. “There are a great number of commercial opportunities online. However, ex-offenders often expect to get rich quickly, and have little patience or know-how for certain aspects of running a company, which can often lead to poor decision-making. Our aim is to provide them with the necessary tools to help them thrive commercially” said Ndhlovu.