If you’re planning to learn an indigenous African language, then Vambo Academy is what you’ve been looking for. This student start-up makes language learning fun and interactive; at the click of a button users will be well on their way to achieving their language development goals.
The brain behind this innovative idea, Chido Dzinotyiwei is a Master of Commerce student at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB). Dzinotyiwei established her business with one goal in mind: to make learning African languages and cultures accessible online. The start-up recently leaped into the final round of the Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition, which will be held later this month.
“Africa is the fastest growing and second largest continent in the world. Sadly, African knowledge resources are difficult to source. At Vambo Academy we aim to bridge that gap and make learning fun,” she said.
Niémah Davids (ND): Tell us about Vambo Academy.
Chido Dzinotyiwei (CD): Vambo Academy is an educational technology (EdTech) platform that provides digital resources to support language learning and translation.
In addition to teaching indigenous languages, the platform also offers a dictionary service, as well as blog posts and podcasts on relevant cultural topics. Students have the opportunity to learn a new language in one of two ways: using the self-learning tool and learning at their own pace, or they have the option of booking a virtual session with an experienced tutor for a one-on-one, personalised learning experience.
ND: What’s your business objective?
CD: We want to democratise access to indigenous language learning and champion the preservation of indigenous languages and cultures for future generations. We want to create a space where the diversity and richness of indigenous cultures is recognised and celebrated. We believe that language is key to achieving inclusion in our societies.
“Education is the backbone of society.”
ND: What makes your platform unique?
CD: We use technology to educate and share knowledge with our students. We’re in the process of developing a tool that allows users to translate a language of their choice to enhance their learning experience. We’re also working on using technology to improve traditional learning methods, and with this we are discovering new and innovative ways to teach indigenous languages.
ND: What sparked this business idea?
CD: This question has a two-part answer. Firstly, we acknowledge that education is the backbone of society. Yet, there remains large gaps when it comes to access to education on the continent, and language is one of the main barriers preventing students from pursuing their dreams. We developed this platform to provide students with the necessary resources to learn an indigenous language, and to improve their skill set.
Secondly, we really want to preserve our heritage; so many African languages and their heritage aspects are fizzling out. None of us should ever stop learning about our culture and heritage because knowing where we come from is important. This why we chose to call ourselves Vambo, which means “origin” in ChiShona.
ND: How does Vambo Academy hope to make a difference in young South Africans’ lives?
CD: The one skill set Africans have mastered is their mother tongue. With this venture we hope to create opportunities for talented individuals like writers, poets, teachers and translators, and to be that stepping stone as they venture out into the world. We hope to demonstrate that African solutions backed by technology can make a difference in societies.
ND: What is your opinion on using entrepreneurship as a vehicle for change in South Africa?
“I believe that entrepreneurship is the best vehicle for advancement across all sectors of the South African economy.”
CD: I believe that entrepreneurship is the best vehicle for advancement across all sectors of the South African economy. It’s a unique vocation that trains one to envision a future that does not fully exist yet, create opportunities from nothing, think strategically and become innovative. I truly believe that it’s the answer that so many people have been looking for.
I am proud to be part of Entrepreneurship Intervarsity competition. More initiatives like this will contribute to more sustainable and financially viable enterprises. This will allow for growth and positive socioeconomic change in South Africa.
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