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Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist #billgates has praised the work of young South African entrepreneurs and said the continent was ideally placed to maximise its potential in the 14th #nelsonmandela Day Lecture at the University of Pretoria.
Gates picked out the work of entrepreneur Thato Kgatlhanye, whose Repurpose Schoolbags initiative has helped thousands of schoolchildren across the country.
"In a few days I’ll be meeting with some of these young innovators,” Gates said.
“People like the 23-year-old social entrepreneur here in South Africa who manufactures school bags from recycled plastic shopping bags.
“Besides being highly visible to protect children as they are walking to school, these school bags sport a small solar panel that charges a lantern during their journey to and from school providing illumination so students can study at home.”
Thato participated in the 2014 Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, a programme that supports social entrepreneurs who are using their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to make a difference in their communities.
”Young #people are better than old #people at driving innovation because they’re not locked in by the limits of the past.“ Gates said.
Gates said Africa has “the potential to change faster in the next generation than any continent ever has”.
He attributed this in part to the young entrepreneurs in cities such as Johannesburg, Nairobi and Lagos, who are creating thousands of exciting businesses that are changing lives for the better.
Repurpose Schoolbags are created from upcycled plastic and fitted with small solar panels that charge during the day and provide a study lamp at night. Each school bag contains 40 plastic bags worth of material. Thato’s company – Rethaka - has already distributed over 10,000 schoolbags to children in South Africa.
“We are blessed to have Mr Gates connect with our work on a level that compels him to share it with the world,” Thato said. “It is a remarkable thing that will go down in the history books as our business, Rethaka, grows.”
Apart from gaining recognition from #billgates for her project and participating in Red Bull Amaphiko, she also recently received the Grand Prize at the ELLE International Impact2 Awards in Paris, an award dedicated to female change-makers.
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