No Image?>Featured on the cover of Forbes Africa before
the age of 30 and named Entrepreneur for
the World 2014 by the World Entrepreneurship Forum, Rapelang Rabana founded learning
& development company Rekindle Learning in the belief that every person
should be able to develop their knowledge and learn. Rekindle Learning provides
mobile and computer learning applications to develop functional skills and
knowledge using learning pedagogies that improve the efficiency with which
knowledge can be mastered in both corporate training and school environments.
Rapelang was invited to present Rekindle Learning at the World Economic Forum
meeting on Africa. Rekindle Learning was profiled in the McKinsey report Lions go Digital as a ‘striking
innovation’ in mobile learning.
Rapelang’s entrepreneurial journey was launched
when she co-founded Yeigo, an innovative Cape Town based startup that developed
some of the world’s earliest mobile VoIP applications. She co-founded the
company right after graduating from the University of Cape Town with a B.
Business Science (Comp Sci) degree. Yeigo created ground-breaking applications
and services that took advantage of the internet, mobile and cloud computing
technologies to tackle the cost of communication. In 2008, the Swiss-headquartered
Telfree Group of Companies, a pioneering next-generation telecoms operator,
acquired a majority stake in Yeigo.
She was invited to
join on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for Software and Society, as well as the Global Knowledge Networks
Advisory Board that provides guidance for all the councils encompassing 1,500
global experts as well as all the knowledge think tanks and networks of the
Forum. She serves as the
Chairperson for Moro Group, an ICT and payment services group headquartered in
Botswana as well as for Generation Ubuntu, an NGO that provides lifesaving holistic care to children living with HIV in
Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Rapelang also serves on the
board of Nisela Capital, a Pan-African asset management, private equity and
advisory firm. Coined by CNN.com as one of Africa’s Marissa Mayers, Rapelang was
selected as a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum and invited to join the
Annual Meeting in Davos in 2012 where she shared a
panel with Profs Mohammed Yunus and Klaus Schwab. Rapelang is a Harambe Associate of the Harambe
Entrepreneur Alliance and has also been listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 –
Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs and the Oprah Magazine ‘O Power List’.
We were lucky enough to snag an interview with the powerhouse this week. This is what she had to say.
1. Please tell us in brief about Rekindle Learning
Rekindle Learning is an innovative learning &
development company providing mobile and computer learning applications that
enable a broad range of knowledge to be quickly entrenched and mastered. This
includes corporate training and ongoing learning, as well as school learning.
Our learning applications help reinforce and
consolidate learning, particularly after training and workshop sessions or
after classroom sessions. The learner is able to learn at their own pace and in
a manner that adapts to how they are performing so that they experience a personalised
learning process until the required level of knowledge is retained.
We are building a client base in the corporate market
for training around product knowledge, regulatory & compliance and
organizational processes and operating standards, as well as developing a
strategy for the high school market.
as a female entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge as a female
entrepreneur has, for me, always been the internal battle of appreciating my
own value and trusting the validity of my own journey in the absence of
external points of reference I could relate to.
Our understanding of entrepreneurship
and business and the supporting literature is predominantly built around
traditional masculine archetypes and behavioural traits. The challenge as
female entrepreneurs is to continue to pursue our dreams and success, with very
limited historical reference of people we can personally relate to, in the
absence of an established framework that reflects our ideas, interests, values,
and views of success.
For example, most male technology
entrepreneurs start a business because they have a cool idea and want to play
around to see if they can make it happen. I started a business because I wanted
to create an environment where I could decide how I spend my time and give my
attention, as I believed that would have a great impact on who I would become.
Another example is that after
completing a business degree, for a long time I didn’t understand business
strategy as it was taught at school. Until I read the passage below from The Female Advantage by Sally Helgesen
and could finally see another way to view the world that I could relate to, I
didn’t think I was a businessperson: ‘…strategy [the strategy we are taught in business school] is in fact the
strategy of the hierarchy. It is preoccupied with targeting position, climbing
the ladder, knocking out the competition, playing factions against each other,
achieving an objective by manipulating the chain of command. Both its goals and
methods assume the existence of a hierarchical structure.
This is surely how strategy is
generally perceived, but it need not be the only way. The strategy of the web [the natural strategy employed by women]
employs different methods in order to achieve different goals. Since the most
desirable spoke in a web is the center, the strategy of the web concentrates on
drawing closer to that center by drawing others closer, and by strengthening
the lines and orbs that knit the fabric together. Emphasizing
interrelationships, working to tighten them, building up strength, knitting
loose ends into the fabric, it is a strategy that honours the feminine
principles of inclusion, connection, and what Carol Gilligan calls “being
responsible in the world.” And by emphasizing the continual drawing closer and
strengthening of parts, it betrays the female essential orientation toward
process, her concern with means used to achieve her ends.’
feel that their age is working against their trajectory?
The idea that it is ever too late to
do anything is a fallacy. The stories in media suggest it to be true but it
never has been. Everyone has a journey,
and for some entrepreneurs it starts later in life, but no journey is more
valid than another.
4. Impostor syndrome is a psychological
phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.
Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain
convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have
achieved. Have you at any point in your career felt this way? What advice would
you give someone who feels inadequate?
I frequently feel this way and am
always surprised by the interest in my journey. I have reflected on this and manage
this within myself by taking the time to be grateful for all I have and all I
have experienced. In the bigger scheme of life, I am extraordinarily privileged
and the nonsense in my head is really just that, nonsense.
Africa. Why do you think this is?
We need to draw some distinctions in
the types of entrepreneurs to process that question. Broadly speaking, there
are entrepreneurs of choice and entrepreneurs of survival. The vast majority of
female entrepreneurs in Africa are entrepreneurs of survival, because they were
excluded from better economic and educational opportunities to be able to find
other income-generating activities and self-employment was their only option.
Female entrepreneurs of choice are far fewer and those are who we need
desperately because that is where female captains of industry will come from. I
am not necessarily sure that female entrepreneurs of choice are on the rise.
you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I think I was the kind of child
that had many ideas of what they wanted to be when they grew up – ideas that
shifted and changed depending on what was captivating me at the time, from
ballerina, to astronaut, to athlete, to doctor and lawyer. I certainly didn’t
grow up with a conclusive sense of what I wanted to be. I probably never
thought of being an entrepreneur until a few months before my university
After several weeks of
reflection, I knew for sure that I didn’t want to join the corporate world. I
was very tired of living life on autopilot and doing things I didn’t understand
the purpose of. I knew I wanted to have a bigger say in what I spent the next
years doing and what I would give my attention to and it seemed the only way to
have that say was to run my own business. That is when it became clear that I
would have to become an entrepreneur.