Young SA entrepreneur urges government to support young ideas

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A young South African social entrepreneur has urged the government and the private sector to support young entrepreneurs through capital and access to markets to enable small business ideas to take flight.

According to 25-year-old Thato Kgatlhanye, South Africa has a youth cohort that is talented, hard-working, ambitious, and with a potential to work.

Speaking at the fourth annual Ubuntu Awards at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Thursday night, Kgatlhanye said: “I believe I live in a world where our youth is ready to take up this work but we need to be backed up by the government, we need to be backed up by the private sector. We live in a world where the digital economy is doing a lot of work to advance some of our ideas. I, myself, was highlighted and validated by the likes of Bill Gates as one of the entrepreneurs to watch on the African continent.”

Kgatlhanye, who was recently listed among the young entrepreneurs to watch by Forbes Africa under the age of 30, won the Ubuntu Youth Diplomacy award.

Aged 18, she had founded Rethaka, which produces recycled school bags that double up as solar-powered lights that children can use to study at night.

The Ubuntu Awards, hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation(Dirco) this year under the theme: “Honouring Madiba: A Global Champion of Human Rights, Peace, and Reconciliation”, recognises South African citizens who play an active role in projecting a positive image of South Africa internationally through diligent service in their respective fields.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was the main speaker at the event which was attended by ministers, including Dirco minister Lindiwe Sisulu, members of the diplomatic corps, members of parliament and award recipients from different walks of life.

In her acceptance speech, Kgatlhanye said: “Yes, today I stand in front of you as a business owner that employs over 30 people. I’m only able to do that because I was able to speak to people that were able to listen to what I was trying to do, so I think in this new South Africa, it is the time that we listen to the youth and listen with the purpose of understanding what does the youth need to execute on the ideas.”

She added that Africa was not going to be left behind and that she believed “we are the ones that are going to start leading”.

That is only going to be possible by South African standing behind young people’s ideas and the need to make a difference, she added.

Ramaphosa, in his keynote address, said the work of the award recipients was very important as it kept the legacy of the late former statesman Mandela and struggle stalwart Albertina Sisulu.

Thato Kgatlhanye was speaking at the fourth annual Ubuntu Awards at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Thursday night.


“President Nelson Mandela spared no energy in pursuit of a just and equitable world,” Ramaphosa said. “We have gathered here today to honour those who have distinguished themselves in pursuit of Madiba’s dream and those who have received these awards must pride themselves in knowing that whatever award you received, it is an honour that is being bestowed on those of you who have received in remembrance and in pursuit of Nelson Mandela’s dream.

“We are proud of all the nominees because their efforts resonate with the commitment of MaSisulu to improve the living conditions of the people of our country and our continent,” he added.