NELSON Mandela Bay entrepreneur Ismail Hassen, 32, could not believe it when he was named the winner of the mining and manufacturing section at the Step-Up National Technology Innovation Competition. The competition was held to encourage entrepreneurship across South Africa through out-of- the-box thinking.
The Uitenhage businessman was selected as one of seven winners from more than 400 entries and awarded as a winner at a glittering gala event last week.
Hassen, managing director of CSR-Africa, said he had not expected to win the competition, especially after the mining and manufacturing sectors were combined.
“I actually thought I would get runner-up, at most, and when they called my name I said to the guy who was sitting next to me it [was] probably a mistake and they [would next] call out the real winner.”
The businessman, who grew up in Gelvandale, established his company in 2009. It quickly positioned itself in a niche market within the shipping container industry.
It was the only company in South Africa and Africa offering expertise in the specialised repair of accident damage to ISO shipping containers.
Last year, the company developed and manufactured a special-purpose bulk bitumen box container (Bitu-Box) to transport 25000l of the product.
Hassen, who has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and an MBA from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), said making it this far in the competition was proof that sacrifice paid off.
The competition sectors were agriculture, chemicals, energy, health and bio- sciences, ICTs, mining and manufacturing and green economy.
He said being the only representative from the Eastern Cape was quite a challenge, because some of the provinces had three or more businesses fighting for a spot in the finals.
“It was quite exciting to win the section because the Eastern Cape is one of the areas that is identified either as a poor province, or the province [with] the most challenges when it comes to accessing finance.”
The competition was launched in May, entries closed in September and winners were announced on November 21. The winners in the seven sectors shared about R12-million in prizes.
Hassen said what stood out for him during the competition, which was in its first year, was that there was a specific division for FET colleges.
“I was surprised when I won. I actually felt there were a lot of points where I could have improved within the competition, but winning was exciting.”