MOTHER CITY OR CITY OF GOLD?
Rapaleng Rabana doesn’t l ook anything l i ke t he Silicon Valley geek t ypified by Mark Shuttleworth and Mark Zuckerberg, who are usually seen in shorts and slops. For a start, she’s female. Secondly, she has better dress sense. What she does share with them, however, is youth, drive and a solid business sense.
She has been called ‘ Africa’s Marissa Meyers’ by CNN ( Meyers is the CEO tasked with turning Yahoo!’s fortunes around. Before that she was Google’s key spokesperson), and has been featured on the cover of
Forbes Africa, as well as many other prestigious publications.
Rabana came up with the idea for her f irst business while she was still a student at the University of Cape Town ( UCT). She identified a need among her fellow students: the high cost of prepaid airtime (and even SMS) was frustrating for students on a budget. Her solution used then nascent VOIP technology to plug into the 3G and WiFi networks that were becoming more widespread. This was in the early days of smartphones; the f irst iPhone was launched in 2007, the same year that Rabana and her t wo associates launched Yeigo, the company that they would later sell a majority stake to Swiss telecoms company Telfree.
CAPE TOWN’S CREATIVE GOLD
Yeigo was created and launched in Cape Town, and Rabana credits the cit y for some of her success. “It’s a place, at least in the technology and creative industries, where you are encouraged to be whoever you want to be,” she enthuses.
Rabana tells Finweek that starting a business is not so much about “business plans, f inance rules and typical MBA stuff ”, rather, it requires a great deal of focus and personal insight. “I believe starting a business is much more about personal mastery and for that primary reason Cape Town is the best place to start a new business,” she explains.
Staying i n t he tech space, but with a topic that is close to her heart, Rabana’s latest venture is an education company called Rekindle Learning. It’s a project that has been profiled in the McKinsey report Lions go Digital: The Internet’s transformative potential in Africa, in which it was described as a striking innovation in personalised mobile learning.
Rabana says that she has found
Cover story: Mandy de Waal and
Jon Pienaar Cover concept: Zandri van Zyl
Cover story layout: Beku Mbotoli Photo: Mike dei-Conte