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Impact of Tech on Education and Business in Africa: Interview with Rapelang Rabana, Founder Rekindle Learning



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.

Rapelang Rabana

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.

Also Read: Interview: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For Girls Executive Director, Gugulethu Ndebele On Girls And Leadership

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.

Rekindle Learning


Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care is bringing petcare to your home



Vetwork Inc Founders, Abdelreheem Hussein and Fady Azzouny (Source: Vetwork)

Pets today are considered family members, best friends, confidants, and so much more. Taking care of them requires more than just love and dedication, but also the right knowledge to recognize when something is not right. Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care industry one country at a time and its mission is to make pets healthier, pet owners happier. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Fady Azzouny Founder and CEO of Vetwork Inc talked about his entrepreneurship journey, his vision for petcare with Vetwork and the future plan. Excerpts.


Alaba: Why did you start and what’s the passion behind it?

Fady: Petcare should be easy, as it stands its full of inefficiencies for both pet parents and vets. Instead of a crowded clinic with a waiting time of 30-45 minutes, vets come to you at home at the time you choose. Rather than try to muster up a massive amount of money to fund a clinic, vets can practice their services without any initial cost and make extra money to live a better life.

The vision of regulating the petcare industry involves a lot of innovation, our dream is to use the available technologies to make everyone’s lives easier and right now we’re on the right track.


Alaba: What is your background?

Fady: I graduated as a veterinarian, but I consider myself an entrepreneur. I saw some problems in the veterinary market while I was still studying and started a bunch of projects, with a few of them turning into medium sized companies. My initial problem was the absence of technology in my solutions, with Vetwork I think we can really achieve my vision of making petcare easier.


Alaba: What are the problems you are solving and what is your value proposition?

Fady: Its simple, we are solving the problem of finding a good vet by selecting our vets from a pool of more than 1000 annual applications. And the problem of waiting in the clinic through Home visits available 24/7. Also, we are addressing Vets problems of low wages and salaries by offering them easy access to extra income.

Vetwork is reliable, affordable and available petcare.


Alaba: Tell us more about the process, users, business model!

Fady: As we stand the process is the same across Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate (UAE). We onboarded more than 300 vets across these three countries. These vets help us cater to our customer’s needs. A pet parent can log into our website or app and request a service at the time of their choosing. A vet will be assigned and introduced to the client.

The vet will then arrive, conduct the visit and deliver a detailed orientation on the tips and tricks of petcare. Our medical records also allow us to follow-up with our pet parents to make sure that everything is going according to plan and their pet is getting better.


Alaba: What are your main challenge?

Fady: Since we promise to deliver all your pets needs to you, finding the right groomers, trainers, vets and boarding facilities is always a challenge due to our strict onboarding guidelines.


Alaba: What is your achievements and coming plan?

Fady: After launching in three countries our plan is to start expanding further into the MENA region and build our presence in the countries that need us the most. Our tech infrastructure allows us to launch in any country in a matter of days and we plan to take advantage of this to test markets and become your pets partner anywhere in the Middle East.


Alaba: Do you think the ecosystem support you?

Fady: Ideas and mentorship, we’re always happy to learn and listen to other people’s ideas on how we can make petcare an easier process. We try our best to promote pet adoption since a lot of shelters are full of pets that need a home. Access to people with a wider audience can surely help us deliver our message to the people that need us the most.

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Zoe Adjonyoh, the Ghanaian Irish Chef, Writer and Activist revolutionizing African Cuisine



Zoe Adjonyoh, Founder at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (Source: Zoe Adjonyoh)

Zoe Adjonyoh is on a mission to bring African food to the masses. Born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, the writer and chef from South-East London deepened her understanding of West African cuisine after a trip to visit her extended family in Ghana. Described by the Observer as “the standard bearer for West African food” and named by Nigel Slater as ‘one to watch’ bringing immigrant food to Britain. She was named one of “London’s hottest chefs” by Time Out and most recently has been included as one of ‘The 44 Best Female Chefs in the World’ by Hachette Cuisine France. She became a judge at “The Great Taste Awards” in 2016, which is known as the “Oscars” of the food industry, and in 2018, she won the Iconoclast award at The James Beard Foundation.

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

Zoe began by selling Ghanaian food outside her front door during the 2010 Hackney Wicked Arts Festival to ‘make a bit of pocket money’ after returning from traveling across The United States. After the popularity of the stall she set up selling peanut stew outside her front door, Zoe went on the host many supper clubs in her home consistently selling out.

Zoe has been making waves in the international food scene ever since. Zoe has taken her fresh interpretation of classic Ghanaian flavours to pop-up venues across London, Berlin, Accra, Russia and New York, and is a leader in the new African cuisine revolution. Along with her world-renowned supper clubs, Zoe launched her first fixed restaurant space in 2015, at shipping container community project Pop Brixton.

In 2017, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen became a roving private dining, street food, wedding and events company, which Zoe ran alongside her chef residencies. The brand is a prominent force in the festival community around the UK, including Camp Bestival as part of The Feast Collective, and came runner-up as ‘Best Street Food Trader’ at the UK Festival Awards 2017.

Revolutionizing West African Food

Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the first modern West African Restaurant in the United Kingdom. Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the epitome of social, relaxed and affordable dining – where guests gather to enjoy Ghanaian favourites, notable for their heartiness and spice, alongside Zoe’s contemporary West African creations.

In 2014, Zoe began writing her debut cookbook titled ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ and was released in 2017 by
Octopus Books. The first modern West African Cookbook to be published in the United Kingdom. Due to its demand the publishers decided to re-release of the cookbook in November 2020 and is the process of working on her second book.

Source: Zoe Adjonyoh

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Coco Olakunle, the Nigerian Dutch photographer passionate about humanity, inclusion and diversity



Coco Olakunle is a Nigerian Dutch photographer with a background in Human Geography based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her cultures and lived experience are constant sources of inspiration. This produces a photography style that can be seen as a crossover between documentary and fashion, where she always try to highlight the importance of the subject’s identity and background. During her work time, she likes to create a space where the subject feels comfortable and at ease being themselves and letting their personality show. Coco finds that when the subjects in her work feels comfortable, it is felt in the overall process and in the end product.

Her work revolves around people and the personalities they embody: Coco uses her camera as a way to engage with humanity and peacefully open the doors of full spectrum inclusivity and representation. She’s constantly creating spaces for her subjects to express themselves and discover who they are. The subject is always the starting point but what you see in the image is actually a snapshot of her vision: how I want to see us.

“For most of us, 2020 was a tough year. At the beginning of the year, all my jobs were cancelled. Being in lockdown and not being able to work forced me to rethink my skill set. I wasn’t able to practice photography though photoshoots, but I was able to share my experience as a freelance photographer with others. During that time, I got the opportunity to be in front of the classroom multiple times at various art academies, including one I had been previously rejected from as an applicant. To me, this proves that there are different tracks and ways to achieve your goals. Talking to the next generation of visual artists about my work and the philosophy behind it was a new experience for me. It was refreshing to bring other perspectives to the table, especially not coming from an art academy myself. I feel a great responsibility bringing new perspectives into these institutions and guiding students in finding their visual identity and translating it into their creative work.” Coco said.

One of my absolute highlights from 2020 was shooting the cover of ELLE magazine’s September issue. This was super exciting because I got to focus more on the fashion side of photography, and it was such an honor to have my work on the cover of such a big magazine. I look forward to doing more work in the field of fashion, where I can bring my photography style and cultural background to the table. I am constantly inspired by so many great African photographers, some of which are Nigerian, which makes me even more proud. Seeing all the creative work that comes from the continent inspires me from a distance, and even more when I am there.

Coco aim to get back to Lagos, as soon as possible. She said, “Creating in the motherland is very personal for me because it’s a way for me to connect with and learn more about my culture and my people on a deeper level. Being on Nigerian soil gives me a different type of creativity and inspiration from within and I love working with my people when I am there. My camera is like a passport that gives her access to new people and stories which I love bringing back with me and sharing.”

One of her personal projects is a documentary fashion series about her family in Lagos, which she sees as a personal exploration of her Nigerian culture and an exciting challenge. The idea for this project stems from when she was young. “I dream about Nigeria a lot and created my own image of how it would look in my head, and how my family would be. This visualization is my starting point for this series, blending my own vision with what I see when I am there. This project is a way for me to connect with my heritage and discover more about Nigerian culture, and, through that, myself.” Coco said.

In terms of personal development, she hopes to explore different sides of photography she is less familiar with. Coco is excited to master the physics of lighting, because she believes light is how you paint a picture. She loves learning new things in general, making the entire process to be a fun one.

“The past year brought me a lot of new opportunities and new perspectives which I am grateful for, and hope to take with me further into the next years. For the new year, my focus will be on sharing and creating supportive environments where other photographers can connect with and uplift each other.” She said.

A few weeks ago, Coco organized a ‘Creative Catch Up’ for a small group of creatives to reflect on the past year and share ideas for the next year. With good food, music and a table filled with (photography) books this get together turned into a supportive environment where they shared project ideas, thoughts and insecurities. Something she thinks they as freelancers should do more often.

Her work

Source: Coco Olakunle
Source: Coco Olakunle
Source: Coco Olakunle

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