Interview With Ms. Elmarie Pereira, Chief Operations Executive, Co-Founder & Acting CEO of Memeza Shout (PTY) Ltd (South Africa)

Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition, a flagship philanthropic initiative sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy, just announced the Top 3 winners of the 2022 ABH awards for talented African entrepreneurs selected from 21,000 applications from all 54 African countries this year.  

South Africa has been participating since inception of ABH in 2019, but this year is the first time South African entrepreneurs ended up in the Top 10 and both won each 100,000 grants plus a 10,000 USD top up received by each participant making a total of US$220,000 for both. This is a call to more South African start-ups to participate in upcoming editions to reap from the benefits of this grant & training opportunity. 

Ms. Elmarie Pereira, Chief Operations Executive, Co-Founder & Acting CEO of Memeza Shout (PTY) Ltd (South Africa) was one of South African entrepreneurs that  emerged among top 10 winners in a pan-African entrepreneurship competition. The winners were chosen from a pool of over 21,000 applications received from all 54 countries in Africa, after several rounds of rigorous evaluation conducted by over 230 judges for 7 months. All the Top 10 entrepreneurs are truly inspiring and are a testament to the talent, resilience, innovation, and passion of African entrepreneurs.  

Let’s start with what you would tell other female entrepreneurs who might be apprehensive about entering such competitions such as Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH)?

I would say to other female entrepreneurs, this is one chance in a lifetime, take it! It is the most thorough and comprehensive competition we have ever taken part in. The learnings we took from this process have really elevated our business and ourselves as business owners.

Where did you hear about ABH from and what prompted you to enter?

We heard about Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) through our entrepreneurship networks in 2021, and applied in 2021 but only made it to the top 50. In 2022 we decided to apply again, and this time made it to the top 10. What prompted us to enter the competition was similar reasons why Memeza was started. Both founders come from a history of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and this was our call to action – to give people a voice to SHOUT for help. Entering the ABH competition means that we can scale our impact.

Tell us about the journey you embarked on with ABH and what that looked like as the months went by? How were you feeling?

As mentioned above, we first applied in 2021, but only made it to the top 50. However, as women that do not give up, in 2022 we applied again and made it to the top 10! What a journey! It was 8 months of continuously being tasked to up your game, improve your pitching skills, prove your business processes plus ensure your governance is intact and really look at your business model for success. The PWC audit ABH put us through was intense, however very valuable to identify where we need to improve our processes as a business. Feelings ranged from overjoyed to extremely frustrated…but it was all part of the journey to getting better at running our business and competing with other amazing businesses. Looking back, it was a very educational and learning experience for me as a female business owner and I am so grateful that we had this opportunity.

Please tell us about your company and what you do exactly?

Memeza locally develops and manufactures SA’s first Public Alarm System, endorsed by the Government of South Africa and linked to community response networks. It enables communities to self-police and improves police response times to crime.

Our locally developed intelligence-gathering & survey software is aimed at large-scale surveys. We measure liquor outlet compliance in townships and follow that with impact-intervention projects while working collaboratively with the Liquor Industry.

To date we have reduced GBV by 26%, reduced murder rate by 9% and sped up police response times by 35 minutes, to 7 minutes, through the Memeza Community Policing Alarm system piloted in Diepsloot, Johannesburg. We created 3,450 youth income opportunities at a community level in the past 3 years through large-scale survey and intelligence gathering projects. We created a 7% improvement of the safety of women and children in and around taverns in townships through intervention programmes and we succeeded in 98% prevention of educational ICT theft in 250+ no-fee-paying schools.

Does your company only have presence in South Africa, and if not, where else and why those countries?

Currently we are only in South Africa, however our strategy is based on moving into our neighbouring countries within the next 3 years. In Africa, and around the world, GBV and crime is an issue for all nations, thus our solution is applicable and much needed by other countries.

With the US$100K grant money you’ve received – what do you plan on doing with it? Tell us how the future looks from here?

We will use the winnings to scale our team and operations. Our aim in the next 5 years is to create 10,000 community jobs and income opportunities, secure 6,000 schools’ educational computer equipment, provide safety technology to 15,000 vulnerable homes and small businesses and grow our human talent to 150 permanent Memeza safety warriors.

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