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Khanyisa Mabala, 29

Associate quantity surveyor
Aecom (Pty) Ltd

As an associate quantity surveyor at Aecom, Khanyisa Mabala’s expertise includes playing the role of a business development leader. She leads the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire division, and her role entails carrying out mass quantity surveying services for the construction of smart cities and local hospitals, data centres, universities and malls.
As a quantity surveyor, she is generally skilled in spheres of the economy such as construction, property development, government and finance.
In her work, she prepares research related to building and property economics, the profitability of commercial investment, professional practice matters, cost-benefit analysis related to building material and construction method selection, and many others.
Mabala says quantity surveying is about a whole lot more than counting bricks. “The career is a huge basket of skills. It comprises architecture, maths, science, finance, law, accounting and investments,” she says. However, she adds, “It is exceptionally beneficial that we pay close attention to detail.”

As a black woman working in a traditionally male-dominated industry, I am determined to see more individuals that look like me take up space in my industry.

Author - Nelisiwe Masango
Zama Shabalala, 30

Zama Shabalala, 30

Founder and researcher
University of Johannesburg

Zama Shabalala, a video director and the founder of Bluemag Pictures Foundation, has come to play a pioneering role in research around the medicinal and recreational potential of cannabis. With a background in both biotechnology and sales, he has spent six years working with the cannabis plant to engineer products for people with unique diagnoses.
Shabalala says that he thought he would only have an impact and realise his dreams of helping heal people if he became a medical doctor, but he is now at the forefront of the industrialisation of the hemp industry in South Africa.
Shabalala is leading a research team of students from the University of Johannesburg in studying the uses of the cannabis plant. “What drives me every morning is the passion to produce a product that will help a patient or find results that give answers to past problems,” he says.

Never stop learning. Ultimately, knowledge is the basis of creation and understanding the path one is taking.

Georgia Satchwell | mg.co.za
Valentine Saasa, 31

Valentine Saasa, 31

Postdoctoral research scientist
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

“When I started university, I thought I’ll go there and after three years, I will be working — only to be fascinated by the world of science, curiosity and discovery,” says Valentine Saasa.
Saasa’s research focuses on ways of diagnosing diseases using only the human breath. Early detection of lung cancer and management of diabetes mellitus without needles aren’t her only research priority: Saasa aims to apply her findings to make medical tests affordable for low-income households.
Saasa founded a nonprofit organisation called Capricorn Education Resource Centre, which helps learners from disadvantaged communities access tertiary education, aiming to help cultivate the next generation of young scientists. Sassa says her proudest moment was whern she found out that a girl she had mentored went on to study in the same field. “I’m proud that I’ve been the right representation to girls from the same rural areas as me,” she says.

“If I can do it, or if Sir Newton can do it, you can also do it. We are all human, like you.”

Simon Dey | mg.co.za
Robert Walker, 35

Robert Walker, 35

Director
Jukwaa

Robert Walker is the director of Jukwaa, which manages projects such as the Sasol Solar Challenge and E-mobility Congress of South Africa.

His primary role in the company is the conceptualisation of large-scale strategic events. Through his work, he strives to become market-leading, set new standards for the sector and speed up the change towards sustainable mobility.

His proudest moment will always be the birth of his two sons, and he believes our youth have the potential to become world leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). He hopes to see young South Africans “believe in a future which is clean, green and driven by STEM”.

Walker sees every day as a challenge, with his family driving him to find solutions to the seemingly impossible, but he also knows the power of learning from your mistakes. His motto is: “Don’t take failures too personally; learn from them and grow.”

“Learn to scratch the surface and not take every opportunity, no matter how good it may seem.”

Neil Büchner | mg.co.za
Nkanyiso Khumalo, 32

Nkanyiso Khumalo, 32

Director of network processing and real-time payments
Visa

If there’s a way to make processing payments simpler, Nkanyiso Khumalo wants to find it. He’s the director of network processing and real-time payments for Visa, developing and executing processing strategies in southern Africa.

This involves working with a global technology team to design solutions fit for African markets. He also focuses on building innovative real-time payment technologies and modernising Africa’s payment infrastructure.

Khumalo has established himself as an innovator who tries to understand the root cause of a problem to find the right solution. He joined Visa’s Management Team in Southern Africa at age 29, and soon realised he had something valuable to contribute. “This led to me being bold in my submissions and to collaborate with fellow leaders around the table in resolving issues,” he says.

His aim is for everyone to have access to and confidence in making digital payments in the most effective way.

“Spend more time with people who are where you want to be.”

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Nomali Ngobese, 35

Nomali Ngobese, 35

Senior lecturer
University of Johannesburg

A senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, Nomali Ngobese combines her expertise in indigenous plants with her interest in social development. She is known for her work in food security, highlighting underutilised crops to alleviate hunger and boost economic development in rural communities.

Ngobese is particularly proud of her research into proving the food potential of unconventional plants. Her studies have proven that plants such as monkey oranges and wild mangoes have nutritional value. “Having a scientific record to lobby for their commercialisation is very important, not only for the botany field, but for food processors and food engineers as well,” she says.

She addresses malnutrition in rural areas by working with potato farmers to optimise harvests. Ngobese also develops post-harvest strategies for improving the shelf life of popular crops, and creates methods to improve the nutritional profiles of popular local foods, such as steamed bread, by incorporating native plants.

“Knowing that I have a new opportunity to make a mark on the world each day drives me to excel.”

Andie Reeves | mg.co.za
Ncumisa Hlapo, 33

Ncumisa Hlapo, 33

Senior specialist (business intelligence lead)
Medscheme Holdings

Ncumisa Hlapo is fiercely passionate about promoting data literacy and putting her knowledge to use in activist pursuits. Describing herself as “an advocate for the development of young talent in data careers”, Hlapo has worked in business intelligence for more than 10 years and is ardent about sharing her far-reaching experience and knowledge with others, particularly women.
As the host of Data Talk Podcast with Ncumisa, she curates content pertaining to data analytics and its possible careers while speaking to experts in the data analytics field. The goal of her podcast is to spark young people’s interest in data and analytics careers, offering mentorship, guidance and empowerment along the way.
In her capacity as the head of southern Africa at Strategic African Women in Leadership, Hlapo also engages in mentorship, elevation and development programmes for women in leadership roles. “I am passionate about the representation of women in technology and leadership,” she explains.

It took a village to raise me, and I wake every day to give back to that village through excellence and a heart for the community.

Alice Sholto-Douglas | mg.co.za
Maloba Tshehla, 33

Maloba Tshehla, 33

Head of strategy & growth and spokesperson
ED Platform and South African Photovoltaic Industry Association

ED Platform is a development economic adviser for a range of diverse roleplayers in the renewable energy and mining sectors. It works directly with regulators, corporates and community members to create real, sustainable economic change, and Maloba Tshehla is its head of strategy and growth. This position entails nurturing human capital and positioning the firm as a leading economic development advisory. Tshehla also serves as the spokesperson for the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association.
Contributing to mitigating climate change and driving the development of African people is what drives Tshehla to excel. “I want a clean-energy, low-carbon economy that is Afrocentric. The work I do is meaningful and involves a lot of service. Advisory is service to clients, but economic development advisory means we are in service to the objectives of transformation and the betterment of ordinary South African lives,” Tshehla says.

Therein lies the growth – in contributing, putting your views on the table and having them challenged, reinforced, disregarded, grown.

Patrick Visser | mg.co.za
Kialan Pillay, 21

Kialan Pillay, 21

Software development engineer
Amazon Web Services

Very few can claim to have matriculated at 15, and achieved an honours qualification and been headhunted by Amazon before their 21st birthday, but Kialan Pillay is one such anomaly.

Later this year, he will be studying for his master’s in advanced computer science at the University of Oxford.

Pillay is a software engineer working on Elastic Compute Cloud, Amazon’s flagship cloud service — a tool used by millions across the globe for their computing resource requirements.

Pillay’s passion is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), two areas he believes can have vast and impactful applications in almost all areas of society. In a low-resource context such as South Africa, cloud technologies combined with AI and ML can create high-impact, scalable solutions that will drastically change the lives of the communities in which they are deployed.

“Take every chance that comes your way — with both hands.”

Tshiamo Seape | mg.co.za
Karabo Boikanyo, 31

Karabo Boikanyo, 31

Co-founder and chief technology officer
Reslocate

Karabo Boikanyo is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Reslocate, an interactive platform that connects students and property owners, streamlining the process of finding accommodation or tenants.

Boikanyo oversees the technological aspects of the company, managing the functionality of the app as well as researching and implementing better machine learning user experience practices that refine the product.

Reslocate is active throughout South Africa and Boikanyo wants it to keep growing. “I would say the ultimate vision is to scale internationally,” he explains. The app has garnered significant attention; it was a finalist in the 2021 Entrepreneur X Factor and the FOYA Award for Techpreneur of the Year as well as the SAIS BOOST UP Programme.

Boikanyo’s work stems from understanding how stressful finding accommodation during tertiary education can be for students. With Reslocate, he aims to ensure that it’s easy and safe for young South Africans to take that step.

“Because I’ve struggled with accommodation in my varsity journey, I know there are students who need a product like Reslocate to ease their stress in their first year at college.”

James Nash | mg.co.za
Khavharendwe Rambau, 29

Khavharendwe Rambau, 29

Researcher
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

Khavharendwe Rambau is a postdoctoral researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Her work focuses on innovative ways of producing green hydrogen that can be used as an energy carrier within the energy generation sector.

She acts as a representative of South Africa to assist the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the Economy committee, and is the first black woman in the world to be a member.

Rambau’s proudest moment was being the first in her family to graduate from university. “This has set an example to my siblings that you can achieve anything you put your mind to.”

Her aspiration? “I want to see a clean and just transition of South Africa to a green hydrogen economy, and to help poor South Africans have clean and affordable energy that has little impact on their health.”

“Follow your passion, and always strive to do the extraordinary.”

Ncumisa Lerato Kunana | mg.co.za
Jacques van Appel, 34

Jacques van Appel, 34

Lecturer
University of Johannesburg

“Statistics underpin the fourth industrial revolution and it’s exciting to see how it unfolds and evolves through my students,” says Jacques van Appel, lecturer and head of the statistics department at the University of Johannesburg.
The Brakpan native considers his appointment as department head the proudest moment of his career, matched only by the receipt of his PhD degree from the same institution. Van Appel is the youngest department head in the science faculty. He manages the department’s day-to-day affairs and various teaching responsibilities, while still finding time to pursue other research interests in the fields of computational statistics, mathematical finance and probability theory.
Van Appel and his team are striving to introduce their new actuarial sciences programme, which recently received accreditation from the Actuarial Society of South Africa. It’s aimed at assisting students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds to overcome industry barriers and to expedite their journey towards becoming actuarial professionals.

Don’t try to do everything on your own and don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za
Gokul Nair, 30

Gokul Nair, 30

Cofounder
Impulse Biomedical

Gokul Nair is the cofounder of Impulse Biomedical, a team of passionate engineers, scientists, clinicians and academics whose goal is to make healthcare technologies more affordable and accessible. The team has created several innovative products such as the Easy Squeezy, a device designed to help asthmatic children and the elderly by reducing the amount of force required to activate an inhaler. Another invention is the ZiBiPen, a device due to disrupt the emergency injector industry. The reloadable adrenaline auto-injector is more affordable and effective than what is currently on the market and can be outfitted with patient-specific cartridges rather than other market alternatives.
Impulse Biomedical has won several awards, including first place in the Swiss South Africa Venture Programme, Merck Pharmaceuticals Accelerator Competition, and Technology Innovation Agency’s Global Cleantech Innovation Programme. Thanks to their hard work, countless South African lives will be saved.

Dreams are achieved not through the efforts of an individual, but as a community of like-minded people.

James Nash | mg.co.za
Eric Chekwube Aniogo, 34

Eric Chekwube Aniogo, 34

Postdoctoral research fellow
Laser Research Centre, University of Johannesburg

Erik Chekwube Aniogo is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s Laser Research Centre. His research interest is in cancer, cell biology, biotechnology, photobiology and photochemistry with specific reference to multidrug-resistant cancer. His research is primarily concerned with how cancer develops resistance to therapies, and in finding ways to prevent this. He’s excited about the possibility that he can “somehow use laser to excite and treat cancer cells in a new treatment modality called photodynamic therapy”.
Aniogo’s interest in translational medicine – medicine that improves human health through transferring clinical and laboratory research into medical practice – “birthed the zeal to understand why cancer recurs after treatment”, Aniogo explains. The passion for novel discovery is what fuels his ambition to be a pioneer in his research, while his specialisation in oncology was motivated by his empathetic nature to care for the underprivileged, and desire to make an impact that will benefit people affected by the disease.

Supplement your education with a skill if you want to be successful.

Sarah Irwin | mg.co.za
Cerene Rathilal, 30

Cerene Rathilal, 30

Lecturer
University of Johannesburg

Cerene Rathilal is a mathematician who wants to positively impact the education system by ensuring that educators have the skill sets required to teach maths in engaging ways.

Her pursuit of this is refined by personal lessons concerning career choices and connected with creativity and compassion through her programme, STEM MentHER. This initiative aims to guide girls pursuing a STEM career and assist in keeping them in the field. The programme is supported by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the Northcliff Rotary Club, and involves schools, educator workshops, career festivals and mentorship programmes.

Rathilal is a pointfree topology researcher and lecturer at the UJ department of mathematics and applied mathematics. Her expertise serves collaborative efforts with colleagues, collaborators and students in Africa. She just published her first mathematics research paper in an international journal.

“I wish to see a future South Africa where gender equity in the sciences and beyond is achieved, and where women lead in significant spaces.”

Nelisiwe Masango | mg.co.za
Confidence Tshilande, 32

Confidence Tshilande, 32

Founder and director
Prestiio

An engineer by profession with a master’s degree from the University of Cape Town, Confidence Tshilande recognised a need for a social media and networking platform exclusively for women where they could safely interact, connect, inspire and uplift one another.
As nothing of the kind existed globally, she decided to create the first. Prestiio was launched in 2021 on International Women’s Day, which Tshilande says is her proudest moment. What really sets Prestiio apart are functions such as an SOS panic button, the ability to geolocate essential services such as police stations and hospitals, and the option to engage anonymously. All its functions are intended to protect the app’s users. This ultimately realises her goal to “empower women, address the inequality gap, and improve mentorship and networking opportunities with cross-institutional partners and women’s organisations locally and globally”.

Do not give up. The world is waiting for you to unleash your potential and bring about the change you want to see.

Shereen Goosen | mg.co.za
Bonginkosi Thango, 29

Bonginkosi Thango, 29

Engineer, researcher and lecturer
University of Johannesburg

A lecturer and researcher at the University of Johannesburg, Bonginkosi Thango’s career goal is to become the of vice-chancellor of a university.
His desire to excel is driven by the memory of his mother. A single parent, she passed away before Thango completed his matric year; she never saw her son graduate with a PhD in electrical engineering.
The diligent pursuit of his career has already seen Thango publish more than 45 peer-reviewed research papers and two international books; he’s also supervised the theses of nine postgraduate students.
With research interests in artificial intelligence, renewable energy, condition monitoring and power quality, Thango would like to contribute solutions to the various techno-economic challenges faced by South Africa in its mass adoption of renewable energy.

“Embrace your potential and aspirations; procrastinate less, and read more books.”

Carol Chamberlain | mg.co.za
Anne Chisa, 27

Anne Chisa, 27

Science communicator, podcast host and PhD student
The Root of the Science Podcasts

Anne Chisa is a PhD student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, a science communicator and host of The Root of the Science Podcasts. The podcasts aim to amplify the voices of Africans in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields across the globe. “I want to shift the stereotypes that scientists are white old men in lab coats,” she says.

Through her podcasts, Chisa showcases the diversity in the field and challenges preconceptions about STEM careers. The podcasts give African scientists the opportunity to share the work they are doing, in their own voices, and to inspire people to pursue careers in STEM. She believes that sharing inspiring stories of how scientists have overcome difficulties will motivate those already in the field.

Her advice to her younger self is to believe in the validity of your vision, because “you are worthy and capable of being even greater than you imagine”.

My dream of creating a premier platform of Africans in STEM will inspire the next generation of young people to get into STEM fields.

Afrika Bogatsu | mg.co.za
Abdul Qadir Soondka, 24

Abdul Qadir Soondka, 24

Analyst
Cadena Growth Partners

Abdul Qadir Soondka is passionate about digital innovation and the possibilities the field holds for South Africa’s future. He works as an analyst at Cadena Growth Partners, where he specialises in digital ledger technologies. This covers strategy and solution development, financial modelling and stakeholder engagements. Soondka and his team develop roadmaps, strategies and programmes for their clients to help them navigate and reach goals.
“Working in digital innovation has allowed me to see so much potential in our beloved country, but it is on us to activate that potential,” he said. Soondka dreams of activating South Africa’s potential to be a global leader in innovation, technology and economics. His inspiration comes from a promise made to a past school teacher that he would stop wasting his potential and try his hardest in everything he does. Soondka hopes that he will have the same impact on another young person through his work.

I wake up every morning trying to improve on the person I was the day before.

Laura du Toit | mg.co.za
Adivhaho Mphaphuli, 26

Adivhaho Mphaphuli, 26

Civil engineer
Gert Sibande District Municipality

A master’s student in civil engineering at the University of Johannesburg, Adivhaho Mphaphuli wants to ameliorate South Africa’s water scarcity. She grew up in a rural area with little information regarding scarcity and, given the need to avoid wasting water in South Africa and around the world, she wants to change that.
Mphaphuli has taken a course in artificial intelligence and is using the Internet of Things and her self-designed wireless sensor network to reduce water leakages. Her projects have been recognised internationally, winning the Falling Walls Lab competition for South Africa in Germany. Using technological opportunities afforded by the fourth industrial revolution to identify water leakages will modernise and improve municipal responses. More than that, Mphaphuli is energised by her transferable knowledge and has recently started a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) awareness project called STEM-Pro, teaching the next generation about these important disciplines.

Giving is not only something I am passionate about, but it is also a part of who I am. It helps me feel complete.

Albert Troost | mg.co.za
Advaita Singh, 29

Advaita Singh, 29

Researcher
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

Survivors of breast cancer, HIV or Covid-19 may have Advaita Singh to thank in the future. As an expert in biopharmaceuticals, Singh seeks natural cures for human ailments and figures out how to perfect them for commercial use. His team at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is producing low-cost, life-saving therapies and vaccines from plant proteins.

Singh is driven to excel by the knowledge that their work is improving the lives of ordinary South Africans. So far, one of his proudest moments was producing potent plant-based antibodies that could change the lives of HIV patients. He is often “humbled by science”, he says.

He wants to cooperate with local universities and biotechnology companies to drive South African innovation in this specialist field. This will create new openings for young scientists and biotechnologists, and make protein-based life-saving treatments more accessible to all.

“It is the small steps that add up to giant leaps.”

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Alice Moeti, 30

Alice Moeti, 30

Associate director and quantity surveyor
Nonku Ntshona & Associates Quantity Surveyors (Pty) Ltd

Growing up in the impoverished community of Mahikeng in North West did not stop Alice Moeti from pursuing and achieving her dreams. Having obtained both her BSc and honours in quantity surveying at the University of Pretoria, her career continued to soar. With seven years of experience in the built environment, Moeti is currently the associate director at Nonku Ntshona & Associates Quantity Surveyors. She heads the retail, commercial and residential sector within the company, and the overall business development portfolio within the quantity surveying division. Regarding what inspires her, Moeti says, “The belief that we are on earth at this exact time for a purpose, and the search for that purpose is exhilarating.” She urges the country and specifically the construction industry to take note and acknowledge young women and afford them the necessary platform to grow without negative stigma or prejudice.

Take the leap of faith and intensify the amount of effort and work that is being put in presently, as the fruits will be evident in the future.

Ncumisa Lerato Kunana | mg.co.za

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