Featured on the cover of Forbes Africa before the age of 30, Rapelang Rabana founded Rekindle Learning, a learning technology company. Rekindle Learning challenges the existing norms within (largely ineffective) organisational and academic learning. It explores the role of technology and the latest learning pedagogies that improve learning efficiency and reduce time to competency, ensuring higher workforce productivity and enabling young people to be more employable.
Rekindle Learning was profiled in the McKinsey report Lions go Digital as a ‘striking innovation’ in mobile learning and serves academic learning institutions and corporate training environments.
Prior to founding Rekindle Learning, Rapelang was the founding CEO of Yeigo, an innovative startup that developed some of the world’s earliest mobile VoIP applications.
Thanks to our increasingly digitalized culture, people generally have no patience for long-form essays or in-depth reading. Do you think there’s a danger in missing nuances when information is fed in a bite-sized format?
Subtleties and the “bigger picture” can indeed become lost when information is whittled down to its bare bones —this is an unavoidable reality in today’s fast paced world. But we should rather ask ourselves if a solution is ‘purpose-fit’. In some cases, no learning can happen without providing context and nuances, while other times, bite-sized chunks are perfectly adequate.
The very nature of mobile devices —which are the most influential contributors to this information condensing trend, can also be used for a higher purpose. And it is in learning particular subject areas that I see this dynamic being to society’s great advantage in the future.
The process of learning can be aided by information being presented in bite-sized chunks, similar to how we consume social media. This is very much part of the ethos of Rekindle Learning and what I aim to target in both the educational and corporate sphere through the use of mobile devices for learners and employees.
On running a business, you’ve said “being good at numbers, or being an aggressive sales person and deal maker, or bossy enough to manage a lot of people are not deciding factors.” Could you elaborate on the statement?
In business, as with life, we are fed many societal misconceptions that ultimately hinder our progress as individuals and professionals. These misconceptions include “being good at numbers” and “being bossy enough” which are really not factors in determining one’s aptitude for potential entrepreneurial success. Rather, success on the entrepreneurial path is one of self-discovery, the realisation of true confidence and bringing one’s authentic voice to the venture at hand.
You write your own story. The limitations that are so flippantly bandied about are only limitations as long as you play by someone else’s rules. Running a business takes constant vigilance and a lot of hard work, but if one has a deeper motivation than simply the bottom line or being a success, it can be done!
There’s a common notion in Nigeria that everyone should be an entrepreneur. As someone who has founded two start-ups, do you share the same view?
As they say, it takes a village to raise a child and it is the same in the business world. Although I believe that any person, with the right socialisation, stimulation and mindset “can” be an entrepreneur, I don’t believe everyone “should” be one.
A business is merely a sum of its parts, and every person operating within that chain plays an indispensable role – from the secretary to the MD. One cannot function optimally with the other doing the same work. Also, the moment we use the word “should” we are in dangerous territory. The only “should” is that every person be given the opportunity to develop themselves, to discover their strengths and make their unique contribution in whatever form that comes.
Yes, increased entrepreneurial activity is a huge bonus for any country but businesses need employees working in them to make them a success. There are no small parts, and for every successful entrepreneur, there’s a team of astute employees fulfilling their objectives/roles to ensure the bud blossoms.It takes a village to raise a child & it is the same in the business world - @rapelangrabana Click To Tweet
What has founding Yeigo Communications and Rekindle Learning taught you about yourself and entrepreneurship?
From a personal perspective, I have learnt that the journey of entrepreneurship is really an inward one, wherein connecting to my authentic drive and motivations naturally leads me to the right solutions. I have been led to plumb the depths of my personality to reach places of clarity. In a nutshell, don’t look outside – look inside!
Regarding business, I’ve learnt that local entrepreneurs and innovators play a pivotal role in delivering solutions for Africa; that the typical assumptions that technologies will always come from the West are deeply flawed. Indigenous ideas that are contextually relevant, because they are created by people who not only observe but live the experience, are the only way we will have products and services that address the many challenges the continent faces today.
What’s next for the serial entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana and Rekindle Learning?
In the next 10 years, I would like to see Rekindle Learning as a centre of learning, enabling people from school children to young high school graduates needing new opportunities, entrepreneurs and women farmers to build knowledge from the palm of their hands.
I believe one of the greatest drivers of data usage in 10 years on the continent will not just be entertainment and social media but educational, training and learning content, and I want Rekindle Learning to be at the crux of that.
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