Tshimologong Precinct


Braamfontein, the scene of much urban renewal in recent times, is now the site of an exciting new-age software skills and innovation hub, the Tshimologong Precinct. The Precinct is part of an ambitious ICT cluster development programme, Tech-in-Braam, that has swung into action and is making the once dilapidated suburb the new technical heart of South Africa and beyond.


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About the hub

The dynamic development, which will see programmers, designers, developers and entrepreneurs congregating in a half city block along Juta Street between Station and Henri Streets, is the dream of Prof Barry Dwolatzky, who heads up the JCSE at Wits University. He is in the process of setting up shop ina series of five unused buildings where, after some extensive refurbishments, onetime night club floors will become meeting space and server rooms, warehouses will be converted into computer labs and retail outlets will reincarnate as development pods. Appropriately, tshimologong is the seSotho phrase for ‘place of new beginnings’. Braamfontein’s many advantages have made the neighbourhood an obvious location for the precinct – it is convenient to two universities (Wits and the University of Johannesburg); it is centrally located with good transportation; it is the site of local government departments and many nongovernmental organisations (NGOs); and it is within easy reach of banks and mining houses, as well as a multitude of corporate headquarters, such as those of SAB Miller and Transnet. 

Prof Dwolatzky points out that Gauteng generates 40% of the country’s gross domestic product. Much of it emanates from within a 15 km radius of Braamfontein. Furthermore, all these businesses require software and digital services. In addition, as a vicinity characterised by student life, the suburb is young and vibrant. There are estimated to be some 5 000 young people resident in Braamfontein. “We are creating a hub space where people can get together, brainstorm and work on creative projects, and take part in workshops. Tshimologong will be a start-up incubator and source of skills,” he says. Prof Dwolatzky envisions 24/7 activity in the new precinct, with courses running day and night, as well as hubs where ideas are hatched and creativity has a space to breathe. Plans include formal and informal membership-based groups where likeminded and creative techies can connect,take courses, locate tutors and advisors, and access Wi-Fi zones and hot desks. He sees specialised forums and conferences taking place, as well as video evenings,career fairs and master classes. 

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