SA students vie for R15m business start-up prize

Rhodes University chemistry PhD students Gauta Matlou, Nobuhle Ndebele, Reitumetse Nkhahle and Lindokuhle Nene are participating in the Hult Prize Accelerator programme in the UK. /SUPPLIED
Rhodes University chemistry PhD students Gauta Matlou, Nobuhle Ndebele, Reitumetse Nkhahle and Lindokuhle Nene are participating in the Hult Prize Accelerator programme in the UK. /SUPPLIED

A group of SA students is hoping to bag a R15m capital injection from the UK where they are participating in the Hult Prize Accelerator programme.

The four students - Nobuhle Ndebele, 24, Lindokuhle Nene, 25, Reitumetse Nkhahle, 26, and Gauta Matlou, 29 - all PhD chemistry students at Rhodes University in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) - are on a quest to win a $1m (R14.7m) cash prize to fund their start-up company.

They will spend eight weeks in the UK preparing for the final pitch competition where the best business idea will win.

The Hult Prize challenges innovative university and college students from across the world to a social entrepreneurship start-up that will create 10,000-plus meaningful jobs in the next decade.

The four, known as Team E-Smart, won the regional Hult Prize at Brookhouse International School in Nairobi, Kenya, with their business model to develop an idea to provide meaningful work for young people within the next decade.

Their idea is to create job opportunities for the youth through the collection of electronics and electrical waste materials for further recycling, repairing or re-purposing into new market products.

Speaking on behalf of Team E-Smart, Matlou said they had been introduced to influential people.

"We are excited that we have made it this far in the programme. The real work has just started and we have already been assigned with our own mentor Ryan Reigg.

"At the moment our challenge is achieving or sealing business partnerships into our business. We need to get partners who will be willing to buy our products in the future.

"That will show the judges that we will be able to run and m aintain this business should we get the prize," he said.

"There are currently 39 teams from across the world. Ours now is to fight for the top- six position by improving our business model and demonstrate to the judges how we will create 10,000 meaningful jobs for the disconnected youth in our E-waste business. We need to impress the mentors, experts and judges."

According to Team E-Smart, SA produces about 316,000 tons of electronic waste and only 12% is collected and recycled, which is then exported to other countries.

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