Rapelang Rabana is the founder and chair of Rekindle Learning, a learning tech company that explores the role of technology and the latest learning pedagogues that improve learning efficiency and reduce time to competency, ensuring higher workforce productivity and enabling young people to be more employable. She is also a board member of Imagine Worldwide which seeks to demonstrate that children, with personalized technology in their hands, can become literate and numerate with little to no adult instruction. Here are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Heath Muchena of Business Africa Online.
Heath: Obviously you have a passion for education. How did you conceive the idea of Rekindle Learning and what informs your vision for the business?
Rapelang: The first time I started thinking about learning tools that could adapt to how we learn and support our learning until we demonstrate mastery, was in high school at about 15 years of age. Back then it was more of a frustration with the process of education and the inefficiencies that plague it and until a few years ago I didn’t know that it would actually become a business.
Heath: Can you also share the initiatives you’re involved with at Imagine Worldwide?
Rapelang: Imagine Worldwide has undertaken the ambitious goals of proving the efficacy and impact of autonomous learning – the role that smart applications can play in enabling young children to become literate and numerate. While such technologies have been in use for some time, the body of evidence on results, over time, is limited. And in order for such programs to gain traction, government support and more funding, the impact needs to be statistically proven. This is the mission of Imagine through its research in Malawi and other countries, with children in school, out of school and those that have never been to school.
Heath: Is Africa ready for the exponential nature of the change that 4IR will bring and its impact?
Rapelang: Without addressing the skills challenge, the African continent will not be ready for exponential change. My view is that we need to focus on how we develop people to be adaptable and responsive to change. We need to evolve education and training to build the underlying functions and capabilities that enable adaptability.
Heath: Many jobs are threatened by redundancy in the next wave of industrialisation, however, existing jobs are expected to go through step-changes in the skill sets required to perform them. How should businesses or government facilitate relevant skills and knowledge acquisition to unlock future opportunities for workers?
Rapelang: Organisations can be very proactive in mapping out the capabilities and competencies required in future. There are innovative startups that are designed specifically to partner with corporates to develop the pipeline of data scientists or software developers, but retraining existing staff and training up young people in the right skills. But this requires a long term outlook, and most companies only decide to act too late.
The reality is that senior leadership is not adequately incentivised for the long term, and skills development and retraining is a long term play. Given the short term incentive structures of most companies, it remains significantly easier to simply retrench and automate when the time comes.
Government can better assist but moving much faster on the recognition and accreditation of new competencies. Right now, the SETA’s are not keeping up with the new skills demand. Yet, at the same time, companies’ skills development levies and tax rebates are tied up with the SETA process, so companies are not able to use these incentives towards addressing the new skills required
Heath: What can you tell us about your experience as WEF’s Young Global Leader and your role as a Member of WEF’s Global Future Council on Entrepreneurship?
Rapelang: What I came to appreciate about such opportunities is that there are billions of people in the world and to have been able to sit down with a group of like-minded people that have been so expertly filtered – and who are brilliant in everything they do – gave me the chance to jump into conversations that just hit right on target in terms of what I was thinking, where I needed input, where I needed support.
These are people who think as big as you want to think. The beauty of the experience was working with such high-level people and yet everyone’s guard is down and you are able to engage very intimately, very honestly. I also loved the fact that the agenda is open as it’s ultimately a self-managed community trying to pinpoint what we wanted to contribute to this agenda and what we as young leaders of the world can do and how we can use our individual brands, networks and voices to lobby and push for change.
The platform the forum offers is also invaluable to me in trying to grow my business endeavours and effect the change I so desperately want to see on our continent.
Heath: What are some of the initiatives you’ve worked on or currently involved with?
Rapelang: As part of the Global Future Council on Entrepreneurship, we have just released a report where I focused my attention on more effective ways to deliver entrepreneurship education and training.I was also part of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation working group on education where we also produced a report on interventions required in education and shared our thoughts with Thabo Mbeki at a Heavy Chef.
Heath: Digitisation is more than just a technology trend. What immediate action can companies take to keep up with the pace of change? How can IT management create a sense of urgency to achieve responsiveness from the business?
Rapelang: Not all parts of an organisation are ready for change and to drive innovation. It’s important to identify the pockets of potential innovation in a large organization, that have the right culture, progressive leaders, and the digital skills to run projects and give them room and resources to focus on priority projects, beyond business as usual. You can only start the journey with small focused teams that over time build momentum that spill over into the rest of the organization, but you need to give them room to germinate.
The biggest mental block that dilutes the focus and sense of urgency to digitise, is that people still separate addressing the business challenges from the digitization strategy, almost as if technology or innovation is a nice extra that we will get to. As if there is the ‘real business’ and the ‘technology stuff’. Until people across the organization actually see digitization as fundamental to solving their business challenges, there won’t be an urgency.
Heath: Africa has the largest concentration of young people in the world. How can the youth take a right-first approach to digital transformation and technology? How should businesses in Africa define a digital transformation process that serves the needs of its growing pool of consumers on the continent?
Rapelang: The kinds of innovations that are going to serve and address the needs of the consumers on this continent, will be the kind of ‘new market’ innovations that Clayton Christensen talks about in the book, Prosperity Paradox. These are innovations that are simple and affordable, target underserved markets, create new value chains, new jobs and bring in a whole new segment into the economy. Startups like SweepSouth, LiveStock Wealth and Yoco fall into this category.
These kinds of startups are digital natives, and the term ‘digital transformation’ is moot in that context.The reality is that established businesses, mostly focus on sustaining and efficiency innovations that improve their current product and services, and reduce their operating costs. These kinds of innovations enable the established business further optimise around their existing core business, which makes business sense and very rarely is a shift to a new market successful because the business is optimise for a different context.
To serve the growing pool of consumers of the continent, we need to ensure that innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems are working, so new startups with new market innovations can thrive. Corporates can participate by investing in those but ensure they continue to operate independently so they optimise around the new market they are serving.
Shaun Duvet on The Unit Group and the Impact of COVID-19
Shaun Duvet, Founder and CEO at The Unit Group (Source: Unit Group website)
The impact of Covid-19 is changing the way organisations operate and do business about the world. The entertainment industry is not exempted as it’s adjudged the second affected industry after the aviation, travel and hospitality industry. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Shaun Duvet the Founder and CEO of The Unit Group shares his brand story and the Impact of Covid-19. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you tell us about the Unit Group and the gap it’s filling since you launched?
Shaun: The Unit Group was established in 2017 as the holding company for my various business interests which include: COCO, GoldBar and Souk (my venues), Ultra South Africa, Corona Sunsets Festivals, Anything Goes, AG Virtual, Bella Bookings, Salute, Jet Black & Paradise Springs. These businesses cover all functions of entertainment marketing, management, hospitality, sponsorship and eventing from design, to staffing and artist booking, to production and everything in between.
The gap we launched The Unit Group to fill was that of a true understanding of marketing in the entertainment space. So many brands want to play in this space because the audiences are so receptive and the engagement so high, yet so few of them truly understand it. We felt that we had the marketing know-how, and a deep love and knowledge of not only this space, but the global players within it.
Alaba: What services does your company offer?
Shaun: The services offered range from throwing small corporate events to festivals for 50, 000 pax; to sponsorship strategies, virtual events; to full spectrum design, photography, videography; artist, model and staff bookings; marketing, and PR strategies and much, much more.
Alaba: How has the market responded to your offerings?
Shaun: We have seen a huge uptake in clients that previously came to us just to make the party happen, now asking for marketing, creative and strategic advice. AG Virtual, which launched this year, has also seen the likes of AFI (African Fashion Week) approach us to do their full virtual production.
Alaba: The steady rise of South Africa’s entertainment industry has increased competition in the country. What’s your company’s advantage?
Shaun: My 20+ years of experience and my years behind the decks. I live and breathe music and entertainment which enables me to understand what the market wants and keep abreast of global trends. I also have incredible teams in place that keep our work fresh and relevant, and the machine in constant motion.
Alaba: Kindly share some of the challenges faced, especially in this dire time and how you overcoming them?
Shaun: The challenge of this year is obvious – no events, no DJ’s, no dancing! That’s our life blood. We have managed though to stay busy by diversifying what we offer and working more strategically. Helping brands activate within the highly connected urban youth market in an authentic and resonant manner. Some of our venues are also still operational, and the festivals and events teams are taking some much-needed down time before the parties start again, which we know they will do with a renewed energy when we’re out of the current COVID crisis.
Alaba: Technology is disrupting the entertainment industry across the globe. How’s your company adapting to the use of technology?
Shaun: As mentioned, we have launched AG Virtual which is doing well. But we have always been at the forefront of event and entertainment technology in our work. Our audience demands it.
Alaba: How does your company contribute and set new standards in the South African entertainment industry?
Shaun: I regularly write and speak on industry channels and give back to the industry that way. We also ensure that we are constantly raising the bar with the work that we do, meaning that more people around the world sit up and take notice which will ultimately benefit the whole industry.
Alaba: What’s the future for the Unit Group and are you post COVID-19 ready?
Shaun: We cannot wait for life to return to “normal”. Down time was nice, but we’re rested now and it’s time to work!
Alaba: How do you relax and what keeps you going?
Shaun: I have 3 young kids so relaxation is scarce, but they certainly keep me going
Alaba: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and investors coming to South Africa?
Shaun: Come! Don’t be afraid. There is risk, yes, but the rewards are also so great. We live in such a special place and I really believe in the future of this country.
B I O G R A P H Y
Shaun Duvet, CEO and Founder of The Unit, South Africa’s leading entertainment-based holding company, a combination of enterprises, individually built to make brands better. Shaun is also the CEO and Founder of Anything Goes, the branded entertainment agency, aligning campaigns, properties and music tours with international brands and artists across the continent.
He is the co-Founder and Director of ULTRA South Africa, which brings 50,000 dance-music revellers together every year to see some biggest names in eEectronic Music. He is the partner and producer for Corona Sunsets Festival South Africa, which over the last 5 years has seen over 40,000 fans join together across three cities to celebrate the sunset.
He is a co-owner and operator for COCO, one of SA’s premiere nightclubs, think celebrities, Ibiza-style go-go dancers, Hip Hop MCs, and a parade of sparkler-topped bottles, this alongside it’s sister GoldBar, an elegant bar annex to COCO.
Shaun Duvet is a board member and proud supporter of Bridges For Music, a non-profit organization that utilises the power of music to uplift communities through creative education. Recently, partnering with Defected Records on a new imprint Sondela Records all of whose profits will channel back directly into the charity.
Viola Labi: The multi-hyphenate creative strategist building an eco-luxury fashion brand in Africa
Viola Labi is a multi-hyphenate creative, premium retail Strategist and Founder of WOVEN, a design-led fashion enterprise.
With over a decade of experience and a proven track record in the global luxury retail space, Viola has worked with renowned international brands such as Burberry, ZARA, Loewe, CELINE and Valentino and has caught the attention of media powerhouses such as Vogue Business, Essence, Forbes, BBC and CNN International, as one to watch.
Born in Canada with Ghanaian parentage, Viola is culturally plural and holds reverence to fashion’s interaction with humanity; asserting that it permits people, irrespective of their cultural and social affiliations to unite. It is this fundamental belief and her relocation to Ghana that inspired WOVEN, a ground breaking brand which seeks to herald a new direction for eco-luxury retail on the African continent.
Viola said, WOVEN was birthed from a personal journey to Northern Ghana. “I witnessed my own reunification to elements of rich Ghanaian culture through textile creation at the diligent hand skilled Artisans. Despite language barriers and unfamiliar grounds, I felt at home. I spent more time with women creating textiles and found myself being stitched together in areas I didn’t know needed mending, areas like self-identity and purpose.”
“Looking back, I guess you can say we weaved symbolic exchanges of knowledge and cultural practices and this inspired me to creative WOVEN. Although the entire assortment of products are literally woven, the company name speaks to a higher purpose of coming together as Humanity.” She said.
The Brand’s mission is to actively work towards uniting the fashion value chain into a cohesive whole by showcasing the creative talent that pervades throughout the African continent; while emanating the diversity of culture, history and skill, much like yarn being formed into a unique tapestry.
WOVEN has the honour of partnering with 150 esteemed Artisan weavers in Ghana to create sustainable, functional, home furnishing products. It’s design principles and execution promote inclusion and seek to disrupt fear-based stereotypes by creating products, made in Africa, that are par with those of global standards.
Emalohi Iruobe, An Attorney and Founder of Tribe XX Lab Empowering Female-led Startups
Emalohi L. Iruobe Esq. is an attorney, adjunct professor and social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Tribe XX Lab, the first and only co-working, wellness and incubator space exclusively for female entrepreneurs and female led startups and companies in Lagos. Tribe XX Lab offers an open-plan office, private offices, events, networking, yoga, a nap room, conference room, reference library, pop up restaurants and wellness retail.
The fundamental idea is to create a place where women are able to present a professional front for their business as well as network, get training, access to funding opportunities and help each other. With a general focus on self-care and balance, the space also partners with brands that retail wellness and selfcare products in order to meet the other often overlooked core need of women in business-wholeness.
Prior to founding Tribe XX Lab, Emalohi was an adjunct professor of Business Law, Business Research Methods and Legal Analysis and Writing at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, USA for several years before moving to teach Business Law and Data Management at LIM College in Manhattan, New York. Afterwards she taught Expository Writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA before founding Aimanosi Lingerie; a dynamic brand focused on promoting body positivity and selflove in African women. She has a Bsc. in Finance and Banking from Lincoln University, PA and a Juris Doctor from Villanova University.
Before delving into full time entrepreneurship, she practiced law in Pennsylvania and New
Jersey working in Commercial litigation, as well as working as the Manager of Project Implementation in the Kwara State Public Private Partnership office in 2013. She comes with over a decade experience in entrepreneurship, law, education and business.
About Tribe XX Lab
Tribe XX Lab is a civic space for complex conversations, critical contemplation, learning and action to prevent all forms of violence and oppression against women and girls. The goal of their work is to change the perceptions of women and their role in society as well as lead conversations and interventions that PREVENT violence against women and girls in the first place. They do this through the use of digital and social media, conversations, XX-CEED Virtual festival, game theory and art.
Through their work, they are particularly looking to provide support to survivors of Gender-based violence, promote greater public engagement in preventing violence against women, increase public awareness of the intersectionality of oppression women face, create social projects that encourage the extermination of rape culture.
Since inception, they have successfully carried out several survival supports programs, prevention panels and have received a grant to prevent gender-based violence against women and girls in universities in Nigeria as well as provide psychological support to victims of GBV in institutions of higher education from Oxfam/Voice.
Emalohi also launched ‘I GO TALK’ a Nigerian Pidgin phrase which simply means I will not be silent, I will tell on you. It came in as a crucial response to the sexual violence that female students in Nigerian Universities face. This is a clarion call from victims, survivors, and women in general to the perpetrators of sexual abuse and to the general public, that they’re here to XXterminate, silence and provide support to victims. This is a motivation for victims of sexual abuse and harassment amongst University students to speak up and also a mode to create awareness for students on their rights in line with the recently signedd Sexual Harassment bill.
After the BBC Documentary, Sex for Grades rocked the whole of Nigeria in October 2019, the long cloaked truth about the oppression that young women face in the hands of university lecturers started to come to light. For the longest time, young women seeking higher education have been preyed upon by several academicians high in power and have been oppressed, victimized, and helpless.
Starting from the 25th of October to the 31st of October, they are kicking off the first edition of I GO TALK Youth Summit, the largest gathering of university students across the country to build collective power and voice in the fight to end Sex4grades and sexual harassment in Nigerian Universities.
Tribe XX Lab is laser focused on promoting gender equality, deliberate living, transformative leadership and community development through the design and delivery of trainings, workshops, seminars, collaborative partnerships and data gathering.
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