MOTHER CITY OR CITY OF GOLD?

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE - BY JON PIEN­AAR AND MANDY DE WAAL

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

Ra­paleng

Ra­bana

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