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

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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

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Joan Nwosu- helping entrepreneurs and corporate professionals create meaningful lives

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Joan Nwosu is a serial entrepreneur, business consultant and career transition coach based in Toronto, Canada. She is the CEO of Joan Nwosu Coaching and My SoftLanding Canada, both birthed from a deep desire to help people, using her life and career experience over 20 years.

Born and bred in Lagos, Nigeria, where she spent the earlier part of her childhood. Upon completing high school, she moved to the United Kingdom in 1997, to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Internet Computing at London Southbank University. Her journey as a career woman also emanated from the UK, where she spent a considerable amount of the first 35 years of her life. In those years, she shuffled between the UK and Nigeria.

Joan would say, “In the era where I grew up, the societal norm was to get educated, find a job, climb up the ranks, work till the age of 65, and then retire. I followed this trend and became an overachiever, often transitioning through different careers and industries.”

In a bid to find fulfilment, she said “I explored roles in Management, Consulting, Marketing, Communications, Business Development, Operations, and even Artist Management, amongst others, all to no avail. Although I enjoyed the human relations aspect of my career, some of these environments were toxic for me, and I was never satisfied. After working 20 jobs and making 6 career changes across 3 continents, I quit.”

While transitioning through careers, she noticed the void of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfilment in many professionals including herself, which led to the birth of her coaching business, Joan Nwosu Coaching (JNC). Founded in 2019, JNC is an organization that helps corporate professionals and independent entrepreneurs start, grow, and scale purpose-driven businesses they are passionate about. She said, “In just over a year of operation, we’ve helped hundreds of professionals. My experience in different fields plays a vital part in the execution of my role as the Lead Business Coach at JNC.”

Image credit: Joan Nwosu

In her words, “I have always had the entrepreneurial drive in me having ventured into entrepreneurship at the age of 19, and launched a total of six businesses since then; a bakery, lifestyle business, political consulting firm, an NGO, coaching practice, and an immigration consulting firm, of which the last two are still in operation today.”

In 2015, she moved to Canada and two years later, founded My SoftLanding Canada, an organization focused on helping new immigrants to comfortably settle in Canada. Today, My SoftLanding Canada has helped hundreds of Canadian immigrants transition safely and get good jobs quickly.

Also Read: Black Mamba- Changing the world one chilli at a time

Over the years, she has embraced Public Speaking as an avenue to express herself, amplify her voice and message. Again, her vast professional experience has contributed immensely to her success in inspiring and motivating people through seminars, webinars, conferences, events, and other platforms.

Entrepreneurship fuels her desire to make a difference in the world through social impact. According to her, identifying voids, proffering solutions, and providing value is king.

Her purpose is to help people live full lives and not just exist. To live life on their terms doing only what they love while making a difference in the world. She believes everyone deserves to have this regardless of age, background, or environment, you too can have the life of your dreams.

Joan Nwosu Coaching

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Chynna Morgan – helping brands create memorable experiences using sound + music with GIF Out Loud

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Chynna Morgan is the Founder at GIF Out Loud, an experiential technology startup that creates unique experiences and allows customers to spontaneously create and share your brand, sound and music. Chynna shares her story with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online.

As a young girl, I have always been a dreamer- dreaming of ideas that I can bring to life to help or shape the world that I live in. Somehow, I always knew I would be an entrepreneur, but never in a million years did I see myself in tech. I like to say; I didn’t look for tech, tech found me. In the middle of finishing my master’s in healthcare management, I suddenly had the idea to start my tech company (GIF Out Loud). I noticed the lack of shareable experiences that amplified a brand’s voice or sound that fans or consumers could interact with and share during events or brand activations.

As a professional actress, and coming from a family of musicians- I have always understood the importance of creating a storytelling experience, and how it connects with people on a deeper level especially using your voice or music. Since my childhood, I saw first-hand, the power and healing that music could bring to the world, just by listening and watching my family perform.

Historically, as an African American, music has always been a pillar of healing, whether that was bringing us through slavery or bringing us together. Because music is so powerful, I always wondered why brands were not creating full experiences to amplify their brand’s sound while simultaneously capturing analytics and data that they need, to stay in touch with their target consumer. This is why I created GIF Out Loud, we work
with brands and music artists to develop interactive, digital, and shareable experiences using music and sound during events and brand activations.

Since I started my company, we have partnered and worked with big brands such as Shell and Pennzoil, and we are currently working on some cool partnerships in the music, retail and sports industries. My goal is to partner with brands in all types of industries to create unforgettable experiences and memories that consumers would want to share using the power of sound.

Also Read: Redshift – Connecting South African small retailers with shoppers during lockdown

When I started to immerse myself in the tech industry, I quickly realized that this space was not intended for people like me, but it was my job to be the one to help elevate this space and let our faces and brilliance be seen. I am looking forward to creating more opportunities for black people in tech and how I can tap into my heritage and create opportunities in Africa. This will help amplify Africa’s brands and most importantly, Africa’s voice all over the world.

I am more than ecstatic to be on this journey, and this only the beginning.

Visit: GIF Out Loud

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Save App: Helping you share moments, send and receive distress alerts real-time

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Samuel Thierry Njock is the Founder of Save, an App that helps you locate in real time, share moments, send and receive distress alerts from your family and friends. Samuel shares with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, more about Save, what sparked the interest and the long term goals. Excerpts.

About Save App

Save App helps you locate in real time your loved ones, share moments, send and receive distress alerts.

Save is a great location sharing app for your family and friends. It’s now more easy and simple to know where the people who matter most to you are in real time, and if they are safe, even when they are far away. With Save, see in real time where your loved ones, and get easily to them, and share what you do through pictures and videos.

Save also offers health and safety features. You can:

– Display the closest hospitals and pharmacies from your location

– Send distress alerts to your loved ones in case of car crash, car breakdown, and insecurity

– Receive in real time data about health and safety issues (dangerous areas, low network in an area, other health and safety recommendations or warnings).

Since the covid19 pandemic started, we have added real time data about the spread for every country in the world, with protective measures against the virus, for users to keep them on mind all day long.

Here are your first steps on Save:

– Invite your loved ones on Save, then add them to your group

– See in real time each other’s location on the map

– Join easily each other with roads

– See live pictures and videos of your loved ones, share yours with them.

The Interest

The Save project arises from the fact that Samuel works in the Northern Cameroon at the beginning of the Boko Haram crisis. His relatives are constantly worried about his safety, and his girlfriend was living in Yaoundé. There was sometimes no way of knowing in real time whether she was doing well or not, whether she was in the office or at home. Samuel then thought of creating an app, which would allow him to share his position with his relatives, publish photos and videos of what they are doing in real time, and send alerts in the event of an accident, insecurity, car breakdown.

Also Read: Envisionit Deep AI launches AI solution to help Radiologists and Doctors fight Coronavirus

The Future

Save has two major long-term goals:

– Allow individuals to navigate more easily and more simply towards each other, especially in the event of a perilous situation such as an accident, an insecurity problem

– Makepeopleenjoy real time location sharing: make it interesting enough for them to forget the tracking part, which most scares them as soon as they hear real time location sharing.

The Team

Samuel Thierry Njock: Founder of Save, a 32 years old Cameroonian and holds a license degree in Management and a Masters in Finance. During his first professional experience in a brewing company, he was passionate about information systems. He is strongly influenced by Steve Jobs, who thought that technology should make it possible to do more simply what constitutes the daily life of men: to move from a place to another, to listen to music, to use a phone, etc. Samuel is great at conception and simple problem modeling, and he’s passionate about design.

Loic Kami: As he often says, JavaScript is his first wife. Engineer, he worked on several sites and applications before joining the team. He works under pressure and quickly, with excellent results

Bertrand Evina: with a master’s degree in international marketing, Bee as he is called joined Save. He attended with Samuel between 2000 and 2004. Passionate about marketing, he is at the origin of all our campaigns, and manages our online community

There are also people who intervene on an ad hoc basis, such as Thierry, the graphic designer, Jef and Stéphane, who lend a hand in development.

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