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The GE AIC: Commemorating the Impact of Women Entrepreneurs in Women’s Month in South Africa:

August 9, 2017


August is Women’s month in South Africa and commemorates the march on the Union Building of 20 000 South African women on 9 August 1956 – now a national holilday.


This month, the GE Africa Innovation Centre (GE AIC) profiles some of the astounding impact entrepreneurs who were our guests, speakers and lecturers at various events through the year:


1. Green Engineer: Vere Shaba of Shaba Ramplin: Vere was awarded the GE Africa Innovation Centre & Lionesses of Africa Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge award in December 2016 for Women Entrepreneurs. Vere holds a BScEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Cape Town, and practices as a Green Professiona, assessing, auditing and advising on the rapidly developing Green Building profession globally.


Vere’s winning entry for the innovation challenge was a social impact renewable energy project using the (the ability of certain materials to generate an electric charge in response to applied mechanical stress) produced by human footsteps - African footsteps!


The truly exciting aspect of this award, was that it turned out that Vere had, in fact, worked as the green consultant on the GE AIC building during construction. And so, as a part of the team, she became a regular guest on our GE Africa Innovation Open Days, Innovation Tours and Innovation Events – charming all who came to hear her.


In truly interactive form, Vere has treated the GE as a corporate home, hosting Green events at the GE AIC.


Vere was recently nominated by the Mail & Guardian as one of the 200 Young South Africans.


2. Business Strategist and Advisor, Zipho Sikhakhane formed part of the faculty on the Standard Bank GE Healthcare Accelerator, and, aside from being hugely accomplished at all aspects of business operations,  has an inspirational story to tell.

A motivational speaker for 15 years and a weekly Business Columnist for the Sunday Times Zipho is the first black South African to complete an MBA at Stanford University in the USA. She holds a Business Science honors degree from the University of Cape Town.


Zipho served as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co; project management and change management positions for Edcon in South Africa; and Inditex in Spain (the parent company of Zara). But her greatest gift was the engaging and practical way that she lectured and advised the cohorts on the course.


However it is the “afterhours” work that most appealed to us: Truly committed to providing training and investment support to small businesses and entrepreneurs, Zipho is passionate about helping businesses thrive across the African continent. And proves this by private investments of both time and resources in high potential African entrepreneurs.


3. Healthcare: Patricia Mbatshe was one of the cohort on the Standard Bank GE Healthcare Accelerator. A professional nurse, she is a franchisee of the highly successful primary healthcare Unjani Clinics, and operates from Atteridgeville.  A unique business model, the concept is based on an owner-operator model, the mission of which is “To empower black women, build a sustainable network of nurse owned and operated primary healthcare clinics nationally and create permanent jobs.” There are currently 30 clinics in the Unjani Clinic Network, all operating from functional clinics in a container. Made in South Africa from converted second hand shipping containers, each clinic which can be created, from order to commission, in just four weeks. Each 12 meter container can be up and running within one day. All units have toilets, electricity and running water,

an outside reception area, examination room, toilet and a dispensary for medicines at a local community center. Consultations cost between R100 and R150 per patient. Patricia twice presented her business model at the GE AIC to interested parties, sharing both the challenges and opportunities for primary healthcare professionals in the local landscape.  But more importantly, in describing the innovativel business model, Patricia was able to inspire her audience to come up with worthy innovative, and digital, solutions to assist in rollout of primary healthcare.   


4. E-cycling and Urban Mining: For global Environment Day, the GE AIC hosted a range of social entrepreneurs committed to Recycling, Upcycling and e-Cycling: Bridgette Vermaak and the team from Xperien save our landfills from the toxins emitted by discarded computer parts. As Bridgette notes: “Our Urban Mining initiative aims to collect redundant computers from corporate companies, by offering to sanitise the data residing on these computers, refurbish them and redistribute them to previously disadvantaged communities. Urban mining is our business and our passion. There is gold in computers but also toxic waste that needs to be recycled with processes that lower our carbon footprint without releasing toxins to the environment or using excessive energy to recycle.”

Xperien physically dismantle and reverse- manufacture computers into glass, plastic, ceramic components, and forward the waste to manufacturers that need the raw materials. Heavy metals are disposed to licensed recyclers and confirmed by a Certificate Environmental of Disposal. But most exciting is that Xperien leverage every salvageable item to build and sustain new computer laboratories in underserved areas with what, for some, would be redundant equipment.


5. And closing the loop on upcycling is the team from Little Green Number: Maiphepi Lekalakala twice assailed us with her sass and charm. The story is heartwarming:  We all see massive billboards on every street corner. And as they say: “Billboards have nowhere to go. There’s no billboard heaven (or hell!) when they die. They just stick around forever and ever and ever.” The team, in effect, takes discarded billboards off the streets and the garbage heaps and gives them a new lease on life.” How? The team design computerbags, backpacks, suitcovers, handbags, purses, braai holders, and piles more funky design items from the vibrant and durable materials that were once billboards. Each item is unique. And each item is made by a machinist working from home in the townships. And best of all: Buy 1 and they give 1 away for free.


While many more phenomenal women presented to audiences at the GE AIC, this is just a taste of how GE, the GE AIC and our ecosystem players are working hard – and having fun – while making a difference in our society.






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August 1, 2017

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