Alan Knott-Craig Jr
Between 2003 and 2013 Alan Knott-Craig Jr co-founded and/or funded 17 companies in the tech, media and telecoms sector in Africa. In that time, he led various ventures that have made a significant impact. These include South Africa’s first mobile location-based service provider; one of the country’s largest wireless broadband networks; an investment house for apps for Africa; plus, he was chief executive of Mxit when the platform was Africa’s biggest social network. Recently, Alan founded Project Isizwe, a non-profit making the dream of free Internet a tangible reality for millions of Africans.
The arrival of Uber, the app that connects you with a private car or ride share in minutes, has been a massive disruptive force on the streets of major South African cities since 2013. “In 2014, a million trips were completed in South Africa and we have doubled that already this year,” says Alon Lits, who has led Uber’s Johannesburg operations from the beginning, and been in charge of the its drive into Sub-Saharan Africa since June 2015. The company already has over 2 000 drivers operating across South Africa, with plans to expand to 15 000 by 2017. Keep your eye on this man, and on this space.
When she answered her ancestors’ calling to become a sangoma and an inyanga, Amanda retained ambitions in the financial world in which she was qualified. With the strengthening of her gift, she has since discarded those ambitions, and is now fully dedicated to her role as a healer and counsellor. A thoroughly modern African traditional medicine practitioner—an elegant paradox if there ever was one—Amanda’s approach seeks to challenge old, persistent stereotypes and stigmas about her profession.
Artist / Sculptor
Angus Taylor is fascinated by aspects of quantum theory, including the notion that the part is as significant as the whole. His ideas on the anti-monument—leading him to place marginalised figures on the same level as traditionally centred (or central) ones—are derived from this understanding. Furthermore, the perspective of the viewer, although unseen, is active and present in every work. Taylor sees his attempts to rid his work of a sense of elitism as a comment on the contemporary art world. His work furthermore refers to the notions of stability, that everything is constantly changing and in a state of flux.
Camiel R. Verschoor
Camiel is founder and CEO of Dutch UAS, a Dutch startup that builds software to analyse nature reserves and farms. The software creates 3D maps and detects objects (e.g. animals, humans, and cars) in images taken by drones using artificial intelligence. The technology is developed to help rangers combat rhino poaching, but has numerous other potential applications. The Kairos Society recently announced Camiel and his team amongst the top 50 emerging global entrepreneurs to watch.
Guy Lieberman has many talents; he has produced festivals and conferences, and directed films on culture, music and biomimicry. He heads up the Foundation at ad agency FCB, where he initiated the Giant Flag, a legacy project of vast proportions. He and his team are building a South African flag made up of millions of coloured desert plants and thousands of solar panels. Viewable from space, Giant Flag will claim its place as a natural wonder, and as a new model of economic stimulus. Job creation, clean energy and tourism come together in a world-first green innovation project!
Ian Fuhr has a history of unexpected start-ups. Driven by the excitement of building new brands in unfamiliar industries, his modus operandi involves staking out an industry and then upsetting the status quo by challenging the prevailing wisdom. An unlikely CEO of the Sorbet chain of beauty salons, he believes in the subversive idea that in life and in business, service comes before self-interest. After nearly 40 years as a serial entrepreneur, Ian recently published Get That Feeling, a book that tells the story of his epic and maverick journey, so far.
Kopano Matlwa Mabaso
Author / Medical Doctor
Known to many as the author of award winning novels Coconut and Spilt Milt, Kopano Matlwa Mabaso is also a medical doctor, and a PhD candidate at Oxford University. A Rhodes scholar, Kopano fully appreciates the value of the gift of education—Transitions Foundation, the NGO that she co-founded, works to help disadvantaged scholars meet their educational needs. Latest in a string of impressive achievements is her Aspen Institute 2015 New Voices Fellowship, where her lifesaving antenatal care idea, called Ona-Mtoto-Wako, recently won the Aspen Ideas Award.
Lauren Beukes writes books that defy genre. If there is a consistent theme in her work, it is that her fiction magically manages to slice up reality into bits and pieces, then bring it back together as a slightly twisted version of itself. The results are often fantastically horrific, but always illuminating. Her books have been translated into 26 languages and have been optioned for film and TV. She is a recipient of some of the highest honours in her field, including the Arthur C Clarke Award for best science fiction. Her work has been praised by Stephen King, George RR Martin, James Ellroy and Gillian Flynn.
Lindiwe Majele Sibanda
Food Security Advocate
Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda grew up on a farm in rural Zimbabwe. She believes her strong personal connection to Africa’s agricultural traditions is what helped her become one of the continent’s leading advocates for food and nutrition security. As CEO of FANRPAN, Lindiwe coordinates food security policy research and advocacy programs in 17 African countries. In 2010, she was invited into the Guardian Global Development Advisory Panel and identified as one the world’s most influential thinkers and provocative new voices. Lindiwe believes Africa’s rainbow revolution will feed the world. Lindiwe is an Aspen Institute 2014 New Voices Fellow.
Graphic Designer / App Developer
Litha Soyizwapi’s popular GauRider app is the quickest and most elegant way to manage the Gautrain commute. It’s also consistently amongst the top paid and grossing categories at the South African i-Store. In a delightful talk at TEDxSoweto 2014, Litha told the story of how his innate curiosity and natural chutzpah led him initially into graphic design, and then onto a path where he taught himself to code and ultimately create Gaurider. At TEDxJohannesburg 2015, Litha presents his next project: An app that will help you navigate the seemingly chaotic minibus taxi commute! We can’t wait.
Over the past 15 years, Martin Brown has taken an idea from start-up to multi-million-rand-corporation using nothing but a simple stick in his mouth. Confined to a wheelchair since 1998, he is paralysed from the neck down, and all he can move is his head. He has responded to this challenge by developing, for himself, and later for customers worldwide, custom-made electric wheelchairs that have given them back their independence, and won him countless business awards. Prior to his accident, he had achieved national colours in acrobatics and was a professional dancer.
Activist / Talk Show Host
“The world does not go out of its way to accommodate the disabled,” says Masingita Masunga. “You have to get used to that and just take on the everyday challenges.” That she was born with Cerebral Palsy – the tragic consequence of a lack of oxygen during her birth at a clinic in rural Limpopo, South Africa – is completely incidental, to Masingita at least. She presents her own TV show, manages her own media company, and is a regular speaker at schools, churches and conferences. For 10 years, she was the CEO of Miss Confidence, a beauty pageant for people with physical disabilities.
Michris Janse van Rensburg
Farmer / Inventor
Operating out of Bultfontein in the Free State, Michris Janse van Rensburg invents practical solutions to many of the problems associated with improving the success rate of small-scale farmers. With a series of cleverly constructed, hand-propelled applicators, he has brought much-needed precision into the operations of small-scale farmers, vastly increasing their crop yield in the process. Michris’ inventions have taken root all the way up the African continent, helping farmers turn their fortunes in Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and as far afield as Ghana.
Nakhane Touré is an award-winning musician, singer and songwriter. He chose his artistic name in reverence to the legendary Ali Farka Touré, but his musical repertoire spans the distinctive melodies of African indigenous sounds and the urban edge of indie rock. With the recent release of his debut novel, Piggy Boy’s Blues, Nakhane is now also an author. The novel, described as akin to reading fragments of a recurring dream, centres on the disastrous consequences of a man’s return to his Eastern Cape home town of Alice.
Nickey Janse van Rensburg
Nickey Janse van Rensburg lecturers in Material Sciences and Thermodynamics at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and is a pioneer in solar power. Nickey leads the UJ Solar project, where she and her team, made up completely of students, have built a solar powered car which competes in the annual South African Solar Challenge, a 6000km race across the country. The programme has obvious practical applications, but Nickey cleverly uses the platform to promote science, technology and engineering as exciting career options for young South Africans.
Ntuthuko Shezi has always enjoyed creating things. After graduating from the University of Cape Town with an engineering degree, he found himself at Accenture, the global consultancy. He proceeded to rise rapidly through the ranks. When the inevitable entrepreneurship bug bit, he duly embarked on a journey to dream up businesses, build them and then sell them. His latest idea uses technology and crowdfunding to unlock the full investment value of cows.
Nyameko Nkondlwane is a trumpeter and rap vocalist. He has shared the stage with South African legend Abigail Kubheka and Ghanaian internationally acclaimed hip-hop artist Manifest, amongst others. He is currently a member of ‘RADIO123’, a band that has pioneered a new sound that they call ‘MandelaPop’.
Spoken Word Artist
An activist and a storyteller, Radile Mokone is co-founder of Artrest, a gallery and restaurant in Sharpeville that gives the youth a platform to engage local and broader communities. In pursuit of that goal, Artrest have crafted a performance piece titled Vision Statement; instead of waiting for the powers that be to articulate their vision for South Africa, Radile and his team have taken a bottom-up approach and have done that for them. At TEDxJohannesburg 2015, Radile presents Artrest’s grand vision for the South Africa they want to live in, circa 2030.
Roger Layton’s wants to know what accounts for the mistakes that learners make when they do maths, and if, by altering their thinking, those defects can be fixed. He is well equipped to ask—he specialises in Maths Education and Artificial Intelligence, amongst others. Roger is currently pursuing a PhD in the subject at Wits University, focusing on the use of automation to assist with the diagnostics of learning problems. In addition, he recently established a digital Museum of Maths, which he hopes can become a popular physical destination for students and tourists in the future.
Sibusiso Ngwenya’s passion for socks started at an early age when his mom would insist that he wash his socks inside out to get them thoroughly cleaned. Since then, he has cared a lot about which socks he wears, how he wears them, and why he wears them. By 2013 he had collected over 70 pairs. The transition from collector to proprietor was an obvious next step. Today, Sbu’s building his business—Skinny Sbu Socks—into an international fashion brand that would make any mom proud.
Simon Bootsma is CEO of Common Invent, the Dutch company responsible for developing the online electronic nose technology that is now the base of air quality monitoring networks. eNose networks are operational in the ports of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Sohar, and Durban, amongst others. In a unique collaboration with the Academic Medical Centre of the University of Amsterdam, eNose technology is also being used for the development of electronic noses for medical diagnosis.
Thenx Ladies are made up of four women; Kitty Moepang, Tumy Motsoatsoe, MoMo Matsunyane, and Zethu Dlomo. Trained as performance artists and educated at Wits University, they have filled a niche in combining comedy, theatre, music and satire, with current affairs. Thenx will make you laugh, get you thinking, and get you to ask questions about the sometimes crazy world in which we all find ourselves.
Wim Pijbes is director of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Prior to that, he was curator and director of the Kunsthal Rotterdam. He’s also Chair of Droog Design, board member of the Rembrandt Society and member of the Advisory Board of the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Wim was jury member for several cultural projects, including the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, the Budapest Liget Project, and the UK Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year. He has lectured and written extensively on the role of museums in society.