Three female students at the University of Cape Town won intervarsity recognition as top student entrepreneurs after a two-day national final in Johannesburg this month.
Among the winners was Zimbabwe-born Chido Dzinotyiwei, founder of Vambo Academy, an educational technology platform that uses digital resources to offer language learning, translation and knowledge services.
“We want to democratize access to indigenous language learning and champion the preservation of indigenous languages and cultures for future generations,” she told an interviewer. “We want to create a space where the diversity and richness of indigenous cultures is recognized and celebrated. We believe that language is key to achieving inclusion in our societies.
“The one skillset Africans have mastered is their mother tongue. With this venture we hope to create opportunities for talented individuals like writers, poets, teachers and translators, and to be that stepping stone as they venture out into the world. We hope to demonstrate that African solutions backed by technology can make a difference in societies.
“None of us should ever stop learning about our culture and heritage because knowing where we come from is important,” she said. “This is why we chose to call ourselves Vambo, which means ‘origin’ in ChiShona.”
Vambo Academy aspires to make the learning of African languages and cultures accessible online.
Tshegofatso Masenya, a fifth-year medical student, walked away with the national Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and her crowdfunding platform, GoShare, also topped the social impact category.
Masenya said her project responded to the growing number of students needing donors to fund what’s left of their college or university fees. “With GoShare, our main aim is to democratize access to tertiary education, harness the power of community, and cultivate a culture of investing in one another,” she said.
Finally, Vuthlarhi Shirindza won 5,000 rand for her business, Chewi, a pet telehealth app that offers on-demand pet telemedicine and services. The fourth-year medical student at UCT described Chewi as an e-commerce platform that offers products and services by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“We also offer mobile clinic vet services and pet training workshops in townships and rural areas to educate pet owners in these areas on how to care for pets properly.”