Fikile Skhosana: I help victims to become survivors

Fikile Skhosana
I became a police officer because I like challenges, protecting others, and solving problems Click To Tweet

Fikile Skosana is a Detective Constable and Investigator employed by the South African Police Service, under Family Violence, Child Protection, and Sexual Offense Unit. She is constantly solving critical cases related to women and child abuse and assault.

Fikile is giving women, whose rights are violated, the freedom to speak out and find justice and closure for their ordeals. This brave and compassionate 33-year-old always finds it rewarding when she solves a case and turns a victim into a survivor.

When most young girls dreamed of being nurses or working in other ‘feminine’ jobs, you chose to be a police officer. How did you come to that decision and what did your parents say about it?

I became a police officer because I like challenges, protecting others, and solving problems. My parents were not happy at first but now they believe in me.

Police work is seen as a field typically better suited to men, what has been your experience with working in a male dominated field and have you ever felt incompetent because you are a woman?

The job is not gender-specific, ultimately police officers have to be the same regardless of gender. As a woman, I don’t go out to fight but to calm the situation. I always feel competent, especially after solving a case.

For women who feel guilty or responsible for their rape ordeal, sexual assault or abuse, what do you say to them or how do you act in such circumstances? How do you create that safe space for them that allows them to speak up freely and be heard?

Some kids feel more comfortable talking to a mom-type person, same as rape victims, they feel free and safe talking to women.

I listen to them, I tell them they are safe, I help victims to become survivors.

What is your motivation every morning that keeps you going to work in a challenging and potentially risky field?

Helping people and stopping other people from becoming victimized. The difference I make in someone’s life is what motivates me.

The difference I make in someone's life is what motivates me - Detective Constable Fikile Skhosana Click To Tweet

What is the most fulfilling aspect of what you do?

The most fulfilling is when offenders get higher sentences. Solving cases and giving victims some type of closure is what I find most rewarding.

How can young women wanting to enter police-work mentally prepare themselves for work in such a field? How does one know that they are a good fit for this type of career?

I encourage women to consider law enforcement as a career if they are willing to put in time and hard work. They shouldn’t be discouraged and think that this is a male dominated world. They can do anything that a man can do.

I encourage women to consider law enforcement as a career if they are willing to put in time & hard work Click To Tweet

Being a police officer, do you enjoy action movies or dramas on TV and if you do, which one is your favorite and why?

I watch ID Extra channel 171 on DSTV. The shows on that channel are all about crime solving. I actually learn different tracing techniques there.

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Lindiwe Mashinini: I work hard to ensure that I create a legacy for my girls

Our generation has been privileged to be brought up in an era where everything is online. I’m pretty sure the next will literally be raised by technology and that by then pens and paper will be in museums. Software development or coding is an IT skill that is highly demanded, but it so happens that we don’t have enough coders. Generally, the IT industry is perceived as a man’s field and what we need is more ladies to challenge the norm. 
Some African girls have been blessed to have Lindiwe Mashinini the Founder and CEO of Africa Teen Geeks. Africa Teen Geeks is a non-profit organisation that educates school children and the unemployed youth on how to code. Lindiwe holds a BCom degree from the University of Cape Town and recently completed a General Management Programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).
Lindiwe is currently studying towards an MS in Technology Management from Columbia University in New York as well as a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Stanford University. Her numerous accolades include being among the Young Business awards top 3 finalists and recently named Innov8tive Magazine Top 50 Visionary Women in #Tech To Watch in 2017.  

There are several pathways to take in IT. Why coding?

Africa Teen Geeks’ main mission is to inspire a generation of Africans who will be creators of technology, not just consumers. Ten years ago less than 18 percent of the world’s population had access to the Internet. Last year roughly 3 billion people -approximately 43 percent of global population- were online. This is phenomenal growth and the pace of change is continuing.
The digital economy has a great impact on South African growth and economic opportunity. In 2014 alone the US exported roughly $400 billion in digitally deliverable services accounting for more than half of US services exports. Africa’s digital exports have been negligible.
 Africa’s economic growth and competitiveness depend on our capacity to embrace the digital economy.  For  Africa to be competitive in the digital economy it has to equip the youth to address the legacy of colonialism where skills are concerned and to level the playing field for the previously disadvantaged.
Coding is one of the ways in which we can raise a generation of innovators and tech entrepreneurs. With the majority of Africans lacking access to capital, technology is one of the few industries where one doesn’t need money to start their business but only sweat capital.

From your experience with the coding classes. What is the common hurdle?

Their main hurdle is access to computers and the internet. This is common for most Africans since less than 10% of Africans are online. We are addressing that by removing both the computer and internet access as a barrier to learning the basics of coding. In that way, we can really talk about “Computer Science for All.

Africa’s economic growth & competitiveness depend on our capacity to embrace the digital economy Click To Tweet

Africa Teen Geeks is a non-profit org, how would you pitch to get investments within your organisation or in the tech industry as a whole.

We see ourselves as a social enterprise and are working hard to create an organisation that is not donor dependent. We have just launched our first coding boot camp as well as an entrepreneurship lab through our partnership with the Unreasonable institute.
Ultimately, we are a movement that empowers, equips and elevates Africa’s next generation of game changers.

Let’s talk startups. How good should a coder be before starting their own coding company?

I think they need to be good enough to be able to create a prototype of their idea. They need to be able to demonstrate their solution to potential customers and investors.
The aim of this programme is to create a pipeline of African women in tech -Lindiwe Mashinini Click To Tweet

Generally speaking there is a gender gap in our IT industry. How can we close the gap and break the stereotypes?

Obviously, early exposure is important but also is having female role models in the tech sector. That’s why we have a Girl Geek programme in partnership with Standard Bank. At the Girl Geek programme we don’t only teach the girl how to code, we also expose them to the industry.
We also provide leadership training and mentorship from Standard Bank developers. The aim of this programme is to create a pipeline of African women in tech by removing all the barriers that keep girls from pursuing tech careers.

Knit2code, now that’s genius! Please share with us how this came about and how you executed your idea.

Knit2code was inspired by the lack of female role models for girls and also the situation on the ground where less than 10 percent the population are connected to the internet. For example, only 5 percent of South African schools teach IT due to lack of infrastructure and qualified teachers. But also only 23 percent of IT learners are girls. Knit2code includes the female caregivers who learn to code through knitting.
What happens to girls when they go home? For many, their mothers and grandmothers (who are most often their caretakers) are overwhelmed by technology. They do not think they have any skills to support their daughters in their training and to discuss their work. Sadly, girls interested in STEM are often told they inherited a “male brain”; technical skills are not seen as a part of a woman’s feminine legacy.
Many women, of any generation, either knit or know about knitting. They see it as a useful handicraft, one that can create garments for their families.  Without knowing, women who knit have already learned the basic concepts of computing. Helping women recognize this connection is what Knit2Code will seek to accomplish.
Knit2code will bring together 8-10-year-old girls and a female family member to learn, re-learn or enjoy knitting and, at the same time, to learn the basics of computing. While no “real” coding will happen in the class, all students will be able to graduate to the Python computer language after the program. The required materials are minimal: balls of yarn, knitting needles, and posters. But this is enough for all the students to learn how to think of computing in a supportive environment and be able to go home and continue their learning in knitting and computing.

What scares you the most and why?

My biggest fear is not being able to achieve all my goals. I have this strange feeling that I may not live long so I try to work as hard as I can to ensure that I create a legacy for my girls.
That sense of urgency I guess is what drives me the most, being constantly aware of my mortality. I don’t procrastinate because I don’t think I have too much time. It’s been like this since high school so I credit my fear for achievements too…
I have this strange feeling that I may not live long so I try to work as hard as I can - Lindiwe Mashinini Click To Tweet

I can only imagine the feeling after being named one of the 50 visionary women in tech to watch out for in 2017. How did you know and what was going on in your mind at the time? Tell us all about it.

I must say I was shocked to tears because I was humbled to learn how other people view my work. I have tried to shy away from making our work about myself but the children whose life we are impacting. What inspired me also was that I was named by a publication that we never had contact with.
Also, I am so inspired by Anie Akpe so the tears were because it was someone I also look up to. I also felt the pressure that we have to live up to the accolade.

What plans do you have for the future and how do you intend to reach your goals?

My vision is to ensure Africa Teen Geeks has a geek club in every village in Africa whether it’s online or not. I would like to get 1 million girls coding by 2018 through our Knit2code programme.
We have removed the biggest barriers for African kids to learn coding by removing the computer and the internet from the equation.

I believe to be a successful entrepreneur you have to be a great leader. So Lindiwe what’s your leadership style?

I believe in servant leadership but also being accessible. I am accessible not only to my team but to any young person that needs that word of encouragement and support. Literally, I am always a tweet away.

What’s your favourite day of the week?

I love Monday because it’s a beginning. That sense of feeling like it’s a beginning is what inspires me to work hard so that I can have something to show at the end of the week irrespective of how the previous week ended.

Finally, what last impression do you want to leave?

I want to inspire African girls to believe that dreams do come true. I want them to know that irrespective of their reality we live in a time where everything is possible. While other continents have reached their full potential we live in one of the few continents where they can still make a great impact and create a real legacy.
I want to get them to believe that they can also be their generation’s, Nelson Mandela. Africa is rising and they are the ones who will rise with it.

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Mphela Yelane: The agriculture sector should be the highest paying employer in the continent

mphele yelane
We don’t think just being natural is enough. Products should deliver results - Mphela Yelane Click To Tweet

“To me, it shifted from the mindset of being a policy maker to becoming an individual championing the comparative local development concept. Africa trades more in agriculture, the agriculture sector should be the highest paying employer in the continent I thought.”

These were the thoughts of a 31-year-old Mphele Yelane while in Italy on a student exchange program that exposed her to the real context of local development. Born and raised in the African Eden (Limpopo province), “in our backyards you find plants for food and healing remedies. It’s natural for me to take advantage of the wealth in our soil. In Tzaneen my hometown, we produce oranges, lemon, nuts, avocadoes, litchis etc. I know in June I get avocado and orange for consumption and also apply as a face mask”.

The cosmetic products started as a creative thing to do for Mphele, her sisters and friends started coming for more after trying her products. While doing her Masters it clicked to her that this should be a business, Mphele realised she could empower her neighbours by buying from them and producing organic products for profit. Hence Ezamazwe Skin Solution brand was conceived. Ezamazwe means “of the world” or “from the earth”.

Tell me more about Ezamazwe Skin Solution.

Ezamazwe Skin Solution is 100% organic skincare products. We source our ingredients from all over the African continent to ensure we only work with top quality products. A good example is our unrefined shea butter which comes from Ghana. Our passion is to source out pure products from local traders in order to produce products that are truly pure, environmentally friendly and have never been tested on animals for quality control.

The fact that we do all our own research and development and produce all our products from start to finish in one location, ensures high quality every step of the way. Ezamazwe Skin Solution is proud to guarantee that we use the recommended dosages for all our actives. We don’t think just being natural is enough. Products should deliver results.

Our product is completely organic, and healthy for the environment as it is for human skin. Starting its life as nuts, raw materials are carefully crafted into many useful products, including oil and butter. The beauty of shea butter is that it is infinitely recycled from plant to skin butter. Recycling nuts products therefore, contribute to the preservation of our planet. As a sustainable skin solution, it takes nothing away from the environment and leaves nothing behind.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

I am born in an entrepreneurial family, my parents own a tuck-shop, taxi business and are involved in community projects.

I know more about business management than being an employee. When people started making regular orders I knew this must be formalized.

productsWhat was your mission at the outset?

My dream is to have Ezamazwe Skin Solution become one of the very few local organic skincare manufacturers in the South African cosmetic industry.

When did you “charter” the business?

The business started officially in 2007, now to celebrate 10 years I decided to register a formal business in 2017. The brand has grown and the market is ready to receive the Ezamazwe Skin Solution brand.

Mphele Yelane ran Ezamazwe Skin Solution for 10 years before formally registering it as a business Click To Tweet

How do you advertise your business?

I advertise my business mainly through word of mouth. I also utilise social media and am now ready to sponsor TV programs and beauty pageants.

How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?

I have a solid support system from my parents, my sisters (Olgah, Sharon and Lerato) and my husband. I run my ideas with them, if they buy it, I start doing research and officialise it. If they say it’s not viable I leave it there.

Also, I never give up, I just postpone and re-focus my energy. Giving up is never an option if I am sold onto something.

Describe/outline your typical day?

I am still employed full-time and work on Ezamazwe Skin Solution as part-time. My husband is a hands-on father, a typical day starts with “morning ritual”; drop my son at school, off to work, during lunch I work on Ezamazwe Skin Solution.

After work, driving back home I start planning my day as MD of Ezamazwe Concepts. Once I get home, I do house chores, then from 9pm to 2am I work on Ezamazwe Skin Solution; processing orders, delivery arrangement, and manufacturing process.

logoHow has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?

It doesn’t, my husband is a businessman too and my mentor, we don’t know anything besides working smart as parents.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by the desire to be financially fit so that even if I don’t work for a year, my lifestyle don’t change.

How do you generate new ideas?

Ideas are not generated, they just come when one is content. When you are at peace with self, your mind starts working right and ideas start popping up.

Ideas are not generated, they just come when one is content - Mphele Yelane Click To Tweet

How far are you willing to go to succeed?

I won’t rest until Ezamazwe Skin Solution becomes a household brand and number one skincare solution in Africa.

What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

Changing people’s lives through employment is something that brings me joy as an entrepreneur. I also enjoy exploring new markets and take pride in producing Proundly SA brand.

To what do you most attribute your success? What would say are the five key elements for starting and running a successful business?

Wow! If I had to limit it to five elements, they would be,

  • Know yourself in Christ
  • Commit and focus on your plan
  • Believe in yourself and stick to the plan
  • Do research
  • Analyse your market and always engage with it.

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Mandy Shemuvalula: Youth development must be the starting point of all business models

Mandy Shemuvalula: the youth of the African continent are the most powerful demographic Click To Tweet

Mandy Shemuvalula is a 29-year-old Namibian who is a revolutionary at heart. After graduating in 2010 from Monash University in Malaysia with an Honors Bachelors’ degree in Business and Commerce (majoring in International Business), she knew the global business arena was where her heart laid. Mandy asserts that her life purpose is to challenge the status quo for the greater good.

Having participated in reputable summits and interned with global brands, Mandy experienced a radical paradigm shift from her view of empowerment and philanthropy and how it can be closely tied to business growth. This greatly influenced her new journey to starting Youthia, which she is steadfastly building as a revolutionary youth economy and easing intra-continental youth trade in Africa.

At what point did you decide empowering young Africans is what you want to do?

It all started during a five-day trip to India in September 2014, as part of my internship at the World Headquarters of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia. The trip was a social media experiment by Coca-Cola called Women of the Web. We took eight influential American mom bloggers across five cities in India to expose them first-hand to Coca-Cola’s global women empowerment initiative, 5by20, running on the ground.

During the trip, although short, I began to experience a paradigm shift observing how Coca-Cola was building its powerful business while simultaneously developing local communities. Almost instinctively, I knew this was how I needed to approach doing business moving forward. Not too long after my trip to India, I was off to Kenya for three months to do another internship with Microsoft.

While in Nairobi, I engaged with the SME community and observed the stellar innovation coming out from the young people over there. I knew this was a breeding ground for more, coupled with the largest population segment on the continent, the youth. God was ordering my steps. It was definitely divine!

Who is that one role model that fueled your drive for youth empowerment over the years and why?

I wouldn’t say I was particularly passionate about youth empowerment growing up. In fact, it was something I just kind of stumbled into while in India. But I think the seeds began to be planted during my experience participating in the inaugural class of the Mandela Washington Fellowship of Young African Leaders in 2014.

While attending the Presidential Summit in Washington DC with Barack and Michelle Obama, in a room full of progressive young Africans, a light bulb went on that the youth of the African continent will be the most powerful demographic. I think that’s when it officially clicked that young people in Africa are actually a big deal. The biggest deal.

Young people in Africa are actually a big deal. The biggest deal. Click To Tweet

Mandy Shemuvalula

What are some of the setbacks you faced starting up Youthia and how did you pull through?

I knew that if I was to dedicate my life to Youthia, I had to shoot for a massively huge goal. I couldn’t and shouldn’t play small because I wanted to have monumental impact with my work. Because the vision is huge, it was incredibly hard to find the right talent who understood the mission and was able to commit to it for the long haul.

I truly believe Youthia is from God so slowly but surely, the right people began to be directed to me in weird serendipitous ways. At first, I became a little frustrated at how slow things were moving but I had to trust the process and the right people continued to show up.

Another big hurdle was definitely start-up capital. We are trying to do things that have not been done before so convincing funders and investors that this could work was and is challenging. But by being consistent and persistent, we were able to gradually win them over. The struggle continues.

And lastly, our biggest challenge to date is trying to educate the public that youth economic development can no longer be an NGO, charity or philanthropic organization’s work. It will be a conscious, for-profit business industry and we need to lead the way.

It has to be an actual youth economy that is contributing billions of dollars to African nations’ GDP. We want it to be as cool as the Apples, Googles, and Facebooks of this world. The world is changing and changing fast. Youth development can no longer be an afterthought but the starting point of all business models.

An objective of Youthia is to empower one million youths by 2025, where do you see yourself also in 2025?

Personally, I see myself living an extraordinary, fulfilled and peaceful life.

A wrong mindset and character are the biggest barriers for youth entrepreneurs. Click To Tweet

In your experience, where would you say most youths miss it in business?

Undoubtedly, the wrong mindset and character. We often talk about youth lacking relevant skills or capital, little access to markets, amongst many others. These are legitimate hindrances. But the mind-set and character are the biggest barriers for youth entrepreneurs.

They do not prioritize developing mental and emotional strength to weather the storms. They feel entitled. This holds them back.

What do you think are the 3 attributes of an enterprising youth?

Resilient, patient and self-aware. Oh, can I add one more? Resourceful.

If you were made Minister for Youth Affairs in Namibia, what are the first two things you will do in office?

Thank goodness this is theoretical as I don’t think I can survive in politics. I’m too radical and honest, lol. I would definitely push for better regulations governing youth entrepreneurship and youth job creation.

And most importantly, I would prioritize developing a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem that is driven and powered by youth.

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Essie Bartels: I immerse myself wherever I am

Essie Bartels Essie Spice
l told myself l was going to give 100% of my vision into the brand. Nothing was going to be half-baked - Essie Bartels Click To Tweet

Spices and sauces are what turn insipid ingredients into gourmet food. We all love food, well at least l do and there is nothing disappointing in the life of a foodie like being served a dry meal that’s meant to be succulent. Yes, it’s all about the food and for food, it’s all about the bursts of flavor.

Ghanaian #MotherlandMogul Essie Bartels knows the art of fine cookery and through her kitchen experiments, EssieSpice was established. Essie was born in Accra to a family of 9, she went to school in the central part of Ghana and moved to the USA at age 18. She has traveled to over 26 countries, lived on three continents and schooled in those three.

Essie Bartels learnt how to cook from her mother and grandmother from when she was 8 years old.

How did you turn your love for spices into a business?

It was thanks to a lot of encouragement and support from family and friends. The plan was to continue working in corporate America and rising up the ranks and I was doing that. EssieSpice was a side gig. But with all the support, I kept going and when I lost my job, I decided to give EssieSpice a chance.

Main Picture Essiespice

What were some of your disappointments?

There have been so many. Being disappointed by partners, investors, the government, writers who say they’ll publish your story, running out of funds, disappointments from ingredient producers.

The list goes on.

What has been the most successful strategy of marketing your spices?

I think what has worked for me so far is my foundation. When I started out, I told myself I will give 100% of my vision into the brand. Nothing was going to be half-baked.

I spent a substantial amount of money on research, on my labels, on my ingredients, on telling my story, and my overall branding. I think people identify with that and they understand how much I put in. They understand how that translates into the passion and love I have for EssieSpice.

What is your favourite spice from your product range?

I actually wish I had a favorite out of the 4 so I could answer everyone who interviews me but I really don’t.

Anyone who’s tried the sauces will tell you how different they are. With products so different, it’s hard to pick one since they can be used for the same things but also completely varied and different applications.

I immerse myself wherever I am - Essie Bartels founder of @EssieSpice Click To Tweet

How do you generate new ideas?

I travel. I immerse myself wherever I am. Whether I’m back home researching new spices or in another country. I ask a lot of questions. I then come home and experiment. Some of the ideas come out of disasters of experiments as well.

Which cuisine most inspires your spices?

African and Asian cuisines. They are my favorite.


What are your responsibilities as the owner of EssieSpice?

Currently, I don’t have staff. Most of my workers are contract workers or outsourced.

Once in a while, I have help from friends and family so ultimately I have all the responsibilities at EssieSpice. From sourcing ingredients to packaging to production to deliveries to demos to accounting to social media…you name it. But that will be changing soon.

Most of @EssieSpice's workers are contract workers or outsourced Click To Tweet

Did the birth of EssieSpice cause any lifestyle changes? How?

I can create my schedule now. That wasn’t the case before when I worked in corporate. I had to go with someone else’s schedule for my life.

I also had to learn to budget a lot more and to be more organized with finance and schedules. Also knowing that once I create the product, it’s not about me anymore but the consumer. That brings a whole new perspective.

Describe a kitchen disaster

I remember I went to a market and I was told there was no power. So I needed to run to a Home Depot and get a generator to power our fryers and grills. But the generator could only power one thing at a time. It was an extremely hectic and difficult day but we pulled through.

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