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Farai Mzungu, 26

Chief operations officer
Youth Health Africa

In the world that Farai Mzungu is working to create, her role will no longer be necessary.
She’s the chief operations officer of Youth Health Africa (YHA), with a dual focus on healthcare and youth unemployment. YHA runs initiatives to help young people become employable and healthy, including a year-long skills development programme that puts them into healthcare facilities in entry-level roles as tracers, data capturers, navigators or lay counsellors, freeing the clinical staff up to see more patients.
Mzungu also runs youth-focused HIV testing campaigns to encourage people to know their status, take the necessary treatments and live healthy lives.
In her time at YHA, she has benefited more than 3 400 people, 75% of them women, and plans to expand across Africa. “To be able to ease the burden off healthcare systems while empowering young people across the continent is phenomenal,” she says.

To make a difference in our lives and the lives of others, it’s important that we don’t let the limitations of the world create a ceiling on our dreams.

Author - Lesley Stones
Zanele Cekiso, 31

Zanele Cekiso, 31

Clinical manager
Institute of Health Programs and Systems

In service of those infected with HIV, Zanele Cekiso works as a clinical manager at an organisation that renders HIV prevention services and psychosocial support to the key population of the men who have sex with men (MSM) community within the Bojanala district in the North West.
Cekiso juggles the multiple responsibilities that come with running HIV interventions, and has built up an established online presence in the name of HIV education. Cekiso, better known as “Nurse Zee”, uses her Facebook page and YouTube channel to educate the public about HIV prevention and stigmas that still shroud HIV awareness. “I also offer online social support to those affected and infected,” she says.
Cekiso is completing a postgraduate diploma in HIV management at Stellenbosch University, and hopes to see South Africa reporting zero new HIV infections for the youth, MSM, sex workers and transmissions from mothers to newborns.

“My biggest mistake was waiting for someone to make me believe that I can.”

Simon Dey |
Sikander Kalla, 29

Sikander Kalla, 29

Clinical psychologist and founder
Cohesive Collaboration

With a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pretoria, an honours from Wits and a master’s from Nelson Mandela University, Sikander Kalla had already crossed the country before starting his mental wellness business, Cohesive Collaboration.

Qualifying as a clinical psychologist is a rigorous process. “Individuals often have to apply more than once. Each university receives hundreds of master’s degree applications but only takes about eight candidates,” Kalla says.

“Cohesive Collaboration strengthens the values of rehabilitative redress and optimised development by promoting mental health awareness, as well as offering consulting services and wellness programmes to corporate partners,” he explains.

His journey with Cohesive Collaboration has had several highlights, especially sponsoring Miss South Africa 2021, the fruit of almost a decade of labour. “A bittersweet highlight was when the business started prospering during the pandemic through our marketing of digital accessibility to mental health services.”

“A good support system goes a long way.”

Nabeel Allie |
Sebabatso Tsaoane, 27

Sebabatso Tsaoane, 27

Registered nurse, midwife, chief executive and founder
Black Woman Arise Women’s Health Foundation

Sebabatso Tsaoane is a registered nurse, midwife and a midwifery preceptor at the University of the Free State.
Due to her endometriosis diagnosis and the silence surrounding sexual reproductive health in her upbringing, she founded the Black Woman Arise Women’s Health Foundation. This nonprofit organisation focuses on spreading awareness of female sexual reproductive health to women in rural communities.
Through education about and discussions around the sexual stigmas surrounding this subject, the organisation creates a safe space for women to learn and voice their concerns. This enables women to embrace health-seeking behaviour.
The foundation has been awarded a grant from the Bristol Myer Squibb Foundation for the Cervical Cancer Promotion Project in the Free State, which gives women in disadvantaged areas access to mobile clinic cervical cancer screenings.
Tsaoane has also founded the How I Met My Vagina initiative, where women can openly discuss sexual reproduction-related topics with healthcare professionals.

I firmly believe that if we heal a woman, we heal a community and if we heal a community, we can heal our societies.

Louise Bell |
Nombulelo Kubhayi, 29

Nombulelo Kubhayi, 29

Physiotherapist and chief executive

Nombulelo Kubhayi is driven by the idea that one day we’ll have more inclusive media for children affected by disabilities. “My company, TOYDS, focuses on the inclusion of children affected by disabilities in society as well as in mainstream media,” the founder says.

Kubhayi, a Wits University graduate, is a storyteller as well as a qualified physiotherapist. Her experiences in physiotherapy exposed her to the realities of disabilities in South Africa.

Producing books about children with special needs, TOYDS aims to increase awareness among children about the different physical abilities of their peers. This is done through books such as 4 Friends, which includes four separate stories — Sally’s Big Fall, Bobo’s Big Day at the Beach, Jimmie’s Lost Red Ball and Pam Bakes a Cake — all written and illustrated by Kubhayi and Peace Makinita, respectively.

“The amount of support I’ve received for my work has been astounding,” Kubhayi says.

“Every decision you make has an effect on your future self, so don’t underestimate the power of your small decisions.”

Nabeel Allie |
Mohamed Hoosen Suleman, 25

Mohamed Hoosen Suleman, 25

Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Mohamed Hoosen Suleman is an undergraduate medical student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine.

He is an inspiring medical student whose research is rewarded by the World Health Organization. Suleman aims to use his research findings to contribute to a South Africa where each person adopts a spirit of Ubuntu and togetherness.

Suleman is involved in social welfare-oriented academic research in hair loss and HIV susceptibility in women of African ethnicity.

Radio stations regularly invited Suleman to speak about Covid-19 and its emerging variants during the pandemic.

He was only one of three medical students selected globally for the prestigious Changemaker Scholarship to attend the Pre-World Health Assembly and World Health Assembly held at the World Health Organization (WHO) Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. He formed part of the official youth delegation to the WHO in May 2022.

Suleman also volunteers for the Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa (CHOC), a nonprofit organization that supports the wellbeing of children and teenagers diagnosed with cancer or life-threatening disorders.

“Your perseverance moulds you to become resilient even in times of great hardship, trials and tribulations.”

Daniël De Jager |
Mubeen Goolam, 33

Mubeen Goolam, 33

University of Cape Town

An Africa where cutting-edge stem cell research is used to solve priority health challenges — this has always been the goal of pioneering developmental and cell biologist Mubeen Goolam.

Goolam completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge, researching cell fate decisions, a field crucial to the understanding of human development. He then became a junior research fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford.

He is now at the Department of Human Biology at the University of Cape Town, where he heads up the eponymous Goolam Lab. He oversees a group of stem cell biologists using cutting-edge technology to further our understanding of human development, specifically in the African context.

The vast majority of scientific “discovery” is heavily biased towards Western practices and case models. The Goolam Lab, however, focusses on stem cell research from an African perspective to further our understanding of human development, towards improved diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

“Never doubt that you belong where you are.”

Francesco Nassimbeni |
Mvuyo Makhasi, 30

Mvuyo Makhasi, 30

Data manager (public health)
National Institute for Communicable Diseases

Mvuyo Makhasi is a data manager for respiratory diseases and meningitis at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. He is responsible for overseeing the data systems for South Africa’s pneumonia and influenza-like surveillance programmes, used for reporting purposes by the World Health Organisation and the national department of health — including important data on influenza and Covid-19.

He develops and conducts research studies related to respiratory diseases and provides technical support to surveillance across the country.

CoughWatchSA, a project that Makhasi led, is the first digital participatory surveillance system for respiratory diseases in South Africa, created in collaboration with researchers from Africa, Europe and the US. He also represents South Africa in the Global Telco on standardising protocols for participatory surveillance, in which more than 20 countries participate.

Makhasi says that he is driven to excel, knowing that he can make a lasting impact on many lives and leave a legacy behind.

“You are not stuck; you are just in a transitionary period. Soon, you will be trusted with more responsibilities.”

Patrick Visser |
Max Rath, 32

Max Rath, 32

Doctor and founder
Wits University and Wits Healthcare Innovation

The need for skilled healthcare workers has been clear during the pandemic, yet medical staff are often overworked and under-resourced.
To address that, Max Rath founded and heads Wits Healthcare Innovation (WHI) to support health innovation initiatives and tackle pressing issues. WHI runs innovation events, conducts clinical research, works with academia and companies to solve health challenges, and creates an inclusive community of innovative professionals. “I want to change healthcare so it better serves maintaining health rather than just treating disease,” he says.
Healthcare workers know how to develop patient-centric, technology-driven solutions by collaborating across disciplines and nurturing a culture of inclusivity and respect, Rath says. “Given the right support, I believe our health workers have the potential to move South Africa towards more equitable healthcare.”
Rath is completing his final year of specialisation in internal medicine, and also works for Wits University on strategies to encourage undergraduate innovation.

Find the bravery necessary to continuously seek your purpose, and enjoy this process.

Lesley Stones |
Mercy Sepadi, 29

Mercy Sepadi, 29

Operational manager: environmental health
City of Johannesburg

Mercy Sepadi specialises in environmental health, specifically those aspects of health determined by chemical, physical, biological, social and psychosocial factors in the environment.

She is the operational manager in the City of Johannesburg’s health department, managing and coordinating the operations of environmental health practitioners.

“We focus on the interrelationships between people and their environment, promoting human health and wellbeing, and fostering healthy and safe communities,” Sepadi explains.

She has a BTech in environmental health, a master’s in public health and is currently pursuing her PhD in health sciences, all with the University of Johannesburg. She also does mentorships at schools and is involved in NGOs that uplift women.

Never underestimate yourself — take risks, and opportunities will come.

Francesco Nassimbeni |
Malebo Malope, 30

Malebo Malope, 30

Lecturer and genetic counsellor
Stellenbosch University

The first black genetic counsellor in South Africa, Malebo Malope wants to take her career to new heights.

The Stellenbosch University lecturer oversees the teaching activities of the Medical Genetics and Genetic Counselling unit within the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and is responsible for clinical training of genetic counselling interns and students rotating at Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town. She provides prenatal genetic counselling and intermittent cancer genetic counselling.

Malope is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, where she focuses on patient and health professional’s experiences and perceptions on termination of pregnancy for foetal abnormalities.

She is a contributor to the National Department of Health’s Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights training course and is a committee member of the Southern Africa Society of Human Genetics, and Genetic Counselling South Africa.

Her biggest regret was not believing in herself, but she built up the confidence to launch her Instagram page to bring awareness to genetic counselling and genetic conditions.

Along the way there will be opportunities presented to you: seize them!

Lineo Leteba |
Koketso Rathumbu, 27

Koketso Rathumbu, 27

National youth ambassador
The South African National AIDS Council

In conjunction with her position as a national youth ambassador for the South African National AIDS Council (Sanac), Koketso Rathumbu is pursuing an honours degree in social and behavioural studies through Unisa. “I am a public health specialist in the area of HIV prevention and management concentrated among adolescents and young people,” Rathumbu says. “I am an adviser to key stakeholders such as government, donor partners, civil society and the private sector on optimising HIV prevention efforts.”

Rathumbu is working towarda a South Africa with fewer TB-related deaths, and where young people are less disproportionately affected by HIV. She serves as the technical lead for Sanac’s youth programmes — one of her proudest achievements.

“My biggest mistake has been doubting my abilities,” she says. “Every experience, no matter the magnitude, is shaping me for the person I am meant to become.”

“Allow the process of learning to unfold.”

Nabeel Allie |
Eve Mashamba, 21

Eve Mashamba, 21

Full-time student
University of Pretoria

Authenquility is the new name of a nonprofit entity that Eve Mashamba set up during her high school years — known then as BeYou — which earned her various youth initiative awards. A portmanteau of “authenticity” and “tranquillity”, the rebranding better sums up the 21-year-old’s vision of being at peace with oneself.
Mashamba is a full-time microbiology student at the University of Pretoria, but it is her extracurricular emphasis on the promotion of mental health awareness that fills her schedule. As the director of Authenquility, she facilitates educational visits for school learners and the provision of resources on YouTube and social media platforms. She also serves as a peer mentor at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, where she is a candidate fellow.
Mashamba has aspirations that Authenquility’s work will ultimately find its way into the national life orientation curriculum, a subject that she feels has much unfulfilled potential at South African schools.

“Your dreams are valid, and your circumstances don’t define you.”

Zia Haffejee |
Busisiwe Kabane, 29

Busisiwe Kabane, 29

Medical doctor
Douglas Murray Trust

After completing her MBChB in 2018, Busisiwe Kabane began her medical profession believing her career would follow one of the usual paths. “The biggest surprise of my career has been finding out that specialising in a medical field can go far beyond being a surgeon or paediatrician. The work of ‘saving lives’ can extend far beyond the confines of a clinic or hospital,” Kabane says.
Having worked on the frontlines during the pandemic inspired her to redirect her career. Through her work at the Douglas Murray Trust, Kabane has helped lead the trust’s #KeReady campaign. “My proudest moment was when our campaign was mentioned during one of the president’s ‘family meetings’,” she said. The campaign encourages young people to get vaccinated, with the chance to win weekly prizes through creative social media posts. As well as increasing vaccination rates among the youth, Kabane wants to improve healthcare access for the country’s most marginalised people.

When you are true to yourself the path you are meant to be on will reveal itself to you.

Nabeel Allie |
Brett Lyndall Singh, 29

Brett Lyndall Singh, 29

Founder and chief executive officer
Alpha & Omega MedTech (Pty) Ltd

Brett Lyndall Singh hopes to improve the state of healthcare in South Africa by using his skills as a medical doctor, researcher and entrepreneur. His company, Alpha & Omega MedTech, develops medical products specifically for the African market, tackling issues such as malnutrition.
“As a doctor, I can only treat 20 to 50 children a day, but with stronger public health governance and more resources, I can help millions,” says Singh.
With his team, Singh developed Kovifast, a rapid antigen Covid-19 test. Using his entrepreneurial spirit, Singh donated R25-million worth of test kits to the South African Medical Research Council. In the future, he hopes to produce locally made rapid tests for fertility, infectious diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and more.
His company also developed a patented nutrition formula, NutriPowder, to address paediatric malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. The product is expected to be distributed directly to governments and NGOs in the near future.

As a doctor I can only treat 20 to 50 kids a day, but with stronger public health governance and more resources I can help millions.

Andie Reeves |