TUMISANG NDLOVU: In this week’s SME Corner for Moneyweb we speak to the founder of Vukasantewaa, Siyabulela Sinqe. Talk us through Vukasantewaa – what is it all about?
SIYABULELA SINQE: Vukasantewaa is a youth empowerment system. We’ve been working on it for about a year and a couple of months now. Basically what it’s supposed to do is get young candidates, youth, unemployed and employed candidates on the platform. Companies can register and post jobs that don’t require that much experience, like graduate programmes and internships, so that we can create opportunities for these young candidates.
Another section we have is for entrepreneurship, businesses, so young businesses can also register on the site with the hope that big corporates can start fishing and searching to give these young businesses jobs and tenders, so that they can also uplift themselves.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That is an interesting way of harnessing your own business. Why go this route in terms of helping other people to establish themselves within the business structure?
SIYABULELA SINQE: I think the history is quite interesting because when we started we were a software-development company. That’s where my background lies. So during this process – I think it was late 2014 when we started – in 2015 I started getting invited to talks to speak to the youth on career days and at churches and so on/ What became apparent to me during that time was that the same questions keep coming up from the youth, asking how they can get opportunities, youth asking how they can get jobs – especially when every kind of job that they register for requires experience that they do not have. It really got to a point where I was tired of giving out my email and my cellphone number and we had to come up with a solution because, more than just giving motivational talks, these people wanted tangible solutions. So I brought the team together, we discussed it and then the product that we know as Vukasantewaa came about.
The interesting origin of the business name
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Let’s talk about the name, a very interesting name. Discuss that with us.
SIYABULELA SINQE: Vukasantewaa is a two-part name, Vuka meaning “wake up” or “awake” in Zulu or isiXhosa. And Yaa Asantewaa, the second part of the name, was an African queen, who hailed from Ghana. She led a big rebellion against colonialism in the 1500s. Basically what the name is trying to portray is we are trying to awaken that African spirit of the great leaders who once walked this land, and trying to use that motivation as a way for us to fight youth unemployment.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: How has it been received?
SIYABULELA SINQE: I have to say that with the talks I have given a lot of people seem to love the name. The one question we always get is why a woman and why not a man [laughing], but I think we needed to keep that motherly care and feminine touch to the app, to show that it’s more about hands that are uplifting the community; and those are very motherly hands to try and harness the potential of these young people.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Tell us then how people find out about Vukasantewaa?
SIYABULELA SINQE: They can go onto the site itself, the platform. It’s www.vukasantewaa.co.za. So we have features there already and candidates can start registering, businesses can also register, as well as small businesses and recruitment agencies. They can already start posting jobs, internships and programmes. You’ll see on the site that we have a countdown. There are certain features that I would like to be a surprise by the time that countdown is done.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: We look forward to that. What then does it take to run an entity of this nature?
SIYABULELA SINQE: I think it’s one of the biggest challenges that we face. But I have to mention that the partnerships and the people you work with are very important. We didn’t crop up alone. We have a couple of entities helping us – and one of our biggest partners is One on One Community Based Programmes. So what they do is that from high school level they’ve established a programme called STEM, which is science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and what they’ve done is they are building those skills for these young kids at that level. So by the time the kids get to university they are able to select the courses and their career paths that they want.
The biggest issue that we also face with youth unemployment is that the skills are not necessarily the right skills that are needed by the market. Most of the reasons are because a lot of the students who come out of high school don’t necessarily have the right marks to get into those kinds of courses that they need. So they are helping us address that issue as well. Our platform will be used as a platform for them to get access to the candidates who they can also start empowering.
We also have a company that we’ve partnered with called Sky Tech. They are a consulting firm that focuses on data science and they have consultants in the major four banks, so they have decided to come on board and give these candidates a path where they can go.
Another partner that we have is Concepts and Rights, a contract and IP law firm. What they do is they help the youngsters who’ve got ideas that need patenting, or who want to register their business, to go through that process with them so that they can actually monetise these ideas to be used.
Establishing a business in a challenging landscape
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That said, what do you make of the current landscape of the SME space in South Africa, from high school education, to tertiary, to being in the job market, to being an entrepreneur? Is there enough support in South Africa, are the checks and balances solid that an entity like yourself has to start from the ground up and get the culture going?
SIYABULELA SINQE: It’s funny you should ask that question because that’s also one of the major challenges we face and, as a result, we have depended on our ourselves and we’ve funded most of our initiatives. I think it’s a very difficult thing, especially wearing those two hats. I’ve got a daytime job but I also want to do this on the side.
But, to get back to the name of Vukasantewaa, when Yaa Asantewaa led that rebellion she was 60 years old and, if people like that can do it – and these are people who share our flesh and blood – if they can do it then what stops us. I also think that we need to be very cognisant of the fact that we’re not always going to get the support we want, we’re not always going to get the push that we want but, if the initiative is bigger than yourself, and I think it is bigger than me, then I think there should be nothing stopping us from fulfilling that promise we make.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: Well said, and thank you so much for coming this afternoon.
SIYABULELA SINQE: Thank you for having me.
TUMISANG NDLOVU: That was Siyabulela Sinqe, the founder of Vukasantewaa, in this week’s SME Corner for Moneyweb.