A long-term interest in learning and education, combined with a belief that mobile and internet technology will be instrumental in solving a number of socio-economic challenges at scale, led successful techpreneur, Rapelang Rabana, to establish Rekindle Learning. This highly innovative learning and development company is using the power of mobile and computer learning applications to enable people to access knowledge in the palm of their hands.
As part of LoA’s ongoing focus on 'Women in Tech', we asked Rapelang Rabana to share her entrepreneurial story with us.
Tell us a little about your own entrepreneurial journey. What first inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I think I was the kind of child that had many ideas of what they wanted to be when they grew up - ideas that shifted and changed depending on what was captivating me at the time, from ballerina, to astronaut, to athlete, to doctor and lawyer. I certainly didn’t grow up with a conclusive sense of what I wanted to be. I probably never thought of being an entrepreneur until a few months before my university graduation.
After several weeks of reflection, I knew for sure that I didn’t want to join the corporate world. I was very tired of living life on autopilot and doing things I didn’t understand the purpose of. I knew I wanted to have a bigger say in what I spent the next years doing and what I would give my attention to and it seemed the only way to have that say was to run my own business. That is when it became clear that I would have to become an entrepreneur.
"I believe that in 10 years one of the greatest drivers of data usage 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."
Tell us a little about Rekindle Learning
Rekindle Learning is an innovative learning & development company providing mobile and computer learning applications that enable a broad range of knowledge to be quickly entrenched and mastered. This includes corporate training and ongoing learning, as well as school learning.
While Rekindle Learning was started a year ago, the first time I started thinking about learning tools that could adapt to how we learn and support our learning until we demonstrate mastery, was in high school at about 15 years of age. Back then it was more a frustration with the process of education and the inefficiencies that plague it and until 2 years ago I didn’t know that it would actually become a business.
Our learning applications help reinforce and consolidate learning, particularly after training and workshop sessions or after classroom sessions. The learner is able to learn at their own pace and in a manner that adapts to how they are performing so that they experience a personalised learning process until the required level of knowledge is retained.
We are building a client base in the corporate market for training around product knowledge, regulatory & compliance and organizational processes and operating standards, as well as developing a strategy for the high school market.
In the next 10 years I see Rekindle Learning at the centre of learning, enabling people to build knowledge from the palm of their hands. From school children, to young high school graduates needing new opportunities, to entrepreneurs, to women farmers. I believe that in 10 years one of the greatest drivers of data usage 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.
"The biggest challenge as a female entrepreneur has, for me, always been the internal battle of appreciating my own value and trusting the validity of my own journey in the absence of external points of reference I could relate to."
As someone who is widely respected as a successful techpreneur, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the tech sector in Africa?
The biggest challenge as a female entrepreneur has, for me, always been the internal battle of appreciating my own value and trusting the validity of my own journey in the absence of external points of reference I could relate to.
Our understanding of entrepreneurship and business and the supporting literature is predominantly built around traditional masculine archetypes and behavioural traits. The challenge as female entrepreneurs is to continue to pursue our dreams and success, with very limited historical reference of people we can personally relate to, in the absence of an established framework that reflects our ideas, interests, values, and views of success.
For example, most male technology entrepreneurs start a business because they have a cool idea and want to play around to see if they can make it happen. I started a business because I wanted to create an environment where I could decide how I spend my time and give my attention, as I believed that would have a great impact on who I would become.
In terms of technology, it is essential to have more women so that the products and services we develop using technology are reflective of needs and problems that are also important to women and that those solutions are delivered in a way that serves women equally well as they do men. Why are there so few compelling technology solutions around childcare, and managing homes more efficiently, considering how busy women are?
The tech industry, from school education to university, and in the working world, supports the behaviours and interests of traditional male archetypes. A great deal needs to done to make it more gender neutral. For example a typical stereotype is that every programmer in school loves games and this is what students will spend their spare time in computer labs doing. I have no appetite for playing games, but I am interested in solving problems that interest me. If I had allowed that to be my perspective of software and programming, then I would have also not pursued this profession.
What excites you most about the future for women entrepreneurs in Africa’s tech sector?
By virtue of the fact that the services and products in the technology space so far were by and large created by a group of people where women were under-represented, it means if women tap into their frustrations and they want to solve and drive businesses that serve their needs, there are whole markets still to be discovered.
"The challenge as female entrepreneurs is to continue to pursue our dreams and success, with very limited historical reference of people we can personally relate to, in the absence of an established framework that reflects our ideas, interests, values, and views of success."
What advice would you give to any young aspirant women techpreneurs in Africa?
A good computer science or IT degree is the best place to start. Having done that, it demystified a lot about technology and while I don’t do much programming now, I am not afraid of it and understand how best to use technology. Build real competence in technology then everything is a lot easier from there. If you are the kind of person who can build that competence without a degree, then great.
Also learn to trust your intuition and pursue the areas that interest you most. Software and technology is all about creating something from your imagination. Don’t try to be like others. Use your own unique perspective of the world to generate ideas and don’t be afraid to pursue those. You must be able to come up with an idea and trust yourself enough to pursue it.
Contact or follow Rapelang
Why LoA Loves It....
At LoA, we love what Rapelang Rabana is doing to empower people of all ages and backgrounds to take charge of their own learning and development through the use of mobile technology and learning applications, thereby opening up a whole new world of opportunities and possibilities in the future. She is also an inspirational role model for other women to follow in the world of techpreneurship in Africa, hopefully encouraging new generations of young women who will change the continent for the better through their own innovations and tech solutions to the many challenges that exist. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa