The University of Cape Town (UCT) has reason to celebrate. Twenty-six members of the UCT campus community (staff, students and alumni) have made the Mail & Guardian’s (M&G) annual list of 200 Young South Africans. The group has been recognised for breaking ground in their fields and for making a difference in South Africa.
Currently in its 16th year, the M&G Top 200 recognises some of the country’s most sought-after young people who are extraordinarily contributing to the betterment of society. According to M&G editor-in-chief, Ron Derby, this year’s winners are considered innovators and creators of viable and non-conventional solutions to some of the country’s most pressing challenges. Further, he said, they help to create an equitable future where every person has access to resources and opportunities that provide professional and economic parity.
This recognition identifies and celebrates young catalysts for change in various fields, including education, business and entrepreneurship, technology and innovation, health and sport. The following members of the campus community are among the group of influential young South Africans.
Arts and entertainment
- Philiswa Lila (34) is a virtual artist and storyteller. She is influenced by the nuances of memory, brought about by the sensory explorations of personal objects. Her work brings to life the specific narratives identified by the personal connections between the object and the person. She completed her honours in curating at UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art.
- Noluyolo Ngomani (31) is a station manager at RX Radio, a radio station for children that provides a platform for communication between hospitalised children with chronic conditions, their families and healthcare workers. Ngomani is passionate about amplifying children’s voices. She completed her master’s in media theory and practice at UCT.
- Brittany Smith (27) is an opera singer at the Cape Town Opera. She completed her undergraduate degree at UCT’s South African College of Music where she specialised in opera, followed by a postgraduate certificate in opera studies. When she contracted tuberculosis just 4 cm below her vocal cords, both her life and career were in great jeopardy, but fortunately she recovered. She described the feeling of opening her mouth to sing opera again as “freedom and bliss”.
Business and entrepreneurship
- Nicole Dunn (26) is the venture scale lead at Founders Factory Africa, an early-stage investment company that helps start-ups achieve sustainable business growth. In this role she oversees a portfolio of over 30 start-ups in eight African markets that are disrupting traditional industries and enabling inclusion in financial services, healthcare and agriculture. She graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science and Bachelor of Commerce from UCT.
- Thando Hlongwane (24) is the founder and chief executive officer of Lipa Payments, a contactless payment solution available across Africa. To date, one of the largest banks in South Africa has used Lipa Payments’ software during a recent pilot programme, one of the business’s most notable achievements. Hlongwane graduated with a degree in computer science from UCT.
- Marea Lewis (30) is the brain behind Toasted, a space where entrepreneurs, cloud-based start-ups and young professionals who don’t have the luxury of formal office space can get work done, while they enjoy an affordable meal. Lewis values community, lifts others up and in turn brings opportunity and growth to South Africa. Lewis concluded a short course in data analysis at UCT.
- Nonhle Matsebula (27) is the co-founder and chief executive of multimedia and beauty brand Girl Boss South Africa. The organisation develops content that aims to empower girls between the ages of 16 and 25 across South Africa. Girl Boss also manufactures and sells beauty products for natural and relaxed hair, as well as body care products using natural ingredients. Matsebula’s main aim is to use her business to help build girls’ confidence. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from UCT.
- Sibusiso Xaba (32) is the co-founder and chief executive of Africa Cannabis Advisory Group. The goal of the Africa Cannabis Advisory Group is to implement affordable healthcare and climate-friendly industrialisation, which would mean that ordinary South Africans could play a major role in securing a sustainable future. Xaba says that he is “most excited about being part of a growing movement of young entrepreneurs who are building the Africa of tomorrow, an Africa that reflects the potential of its people; an Africa we can be proud of”.
- Rethabile Mosese (34) is an admitted legal practitioner and the deputy director at Lawyers Against Abuse. She has qualifications from both UCT and the University of Pretoria. Mosese says she is driven to excellence by the knowledge that she is making a difference and that the work she does matters.
- Ntebogang Segone (25) is a quantitative analyst at Investec, and in 2021 he was awarded the highly regarded Mandela Rhodes Scholarship. Segone is a person for the people and hopes to have a big impact on disadvantaged individuals who seek career advice. This is the primary reason he founded YourCareerPlug, a guidance service to empower young professionals. He graduated with his master’s in risk management of financial markets from UCT.
- Tyson Sithole (33) is a trustee and the chairperson at the Temba Bavuma Foundation. He believes that he’s the product of opportunity and would like to give others in the country the same level of access he has had. He is driven by a deep passion and purpose to make a difference in the lives of young people in South Africa and Africa. He graduated with his undergraduate degree in business science from UCT.
- Bongiwe Beja-Ntsiko (35) is the head of partnerships at The Student Hub. The organisation provides technical and vocational education and training colleges with the infrastructure to offer optimised online teaching and learning. She graduated with her master’s in development finance from UCT.
- Boitumelo Diale (23) is an accounting teacher and subject head for accounting at San Souci Girls High School in Cape Town. As a high school teacher, Diale has developed a love for pedagogy and the general well-being of her students. She is a triple graduate of UCT.
- Masoi Mhlophe (29) is an engineer by profession and conducts oil refinery research at Cape engineering firm Proconics. He’s also the founder of BraYn Tutoring and has a vision to propel young South African learners into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He graduated with his degree in engineering from UCT.
- Lemohang Monyatsi (33) completed his master’s with the Centre for Transport Studies in 2020 and is currently registered for his PhD. He manages road safety engineering at the Road Traffic Management Corporation, an agency of the Department of Transport where he formulates policies to ensure South African roads are safer.
- Marcel Nagar (30) is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Johannesburg and her research focuses on African developmental states. She has attained many degrees from universities across South Africa and continues to contribute to academic literature through journal articles, book chapters and research reports. She graduated with her master’s in social science from UCT.
- Simone Peters (29) is a postdoctoral research fellow at UCT. She is part of a multifaceted team of psychologists, psychiatrists and anthropologists looking at infant mental health in South Africa and Africa. The team’s aim is to create an archive of the only infant mental health module in Africa, learn ways to decolonise this Western model of observing infants and create an Africa-centred model that can be distributed throughout Africa.
- Sarah Robyn Farrell (30) is the managing director, co-founder and coordinator of African Climate Alliance (ACA) and is fighting for the future of our planet. ACA advocates for climate justice with a focus on Afrocentric climate literacy and social inclusion. She’s currently pursuing her master’s in philosophy at UCT.
- Paseka Mabina (31) is a research engineer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and works to implement renewable energy projects for the tourism, mining, banking and education sectors. Mabina also aims to draw up the blueprint for the use of artificial intelligence to help build a sustainable South Africa. He’s had his work presented on an international level, placing South Africa on the map in the fight against climate change. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in electrical and electronics engineering from UCT.
Film and media
- Ondela Mlandu (31) is a multimedia journalist and podcast host for titles like Go Hustle, Women’s Health, Getaway and MetroFM. She has also hosted podcasts for entrepreneurship platforms like Heavy Chef. Her long-term goal is to help promote a society where women can use their skills and experience to drive empowerment initiatives across Africa. She completed a short course in communication and influence in the digital age at UCT.
- Sihle-isipho Nontshokweni (32) is a bestselling author. Her book Wanda is a children’s story that follows a young girl’s journey to self-celebration as her grandmother teaches her to love her hair. Wanda’s success gave Nontshokweni the opportunity and drive to write a sequel, and Wanda the Brave was released worldwide in 2021, published through Wanda World. With support from the National Arts Council, the series will soon become an animated cartoon for television and digital consumption.
- Luzuko Tena (28) is the social media director at Mediacom South Africa. He is also the founder and chair of the youth-only jury panel for the Bookmarks, one of the media industry’s largest award shows. He believes that the marketing and media industry plays a big role in how people view transformation, diversity and inclusion. He graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science from UCT.
- Mubeen Goolam (33) is a lecturer in UCT’s Department of Human Biology where he heads the eponymous Goolam Lab. He oversees a group of stem cell biologists using cutting-edge technology to improve researchers’ understanding of human development, especially in the African context. The Goolam Lab focuses on stem cell research from an African perspective and aims to further understand human development towards improved diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
- Busisiwe Kabane (29) graduated from UCT in 2018 with a degree in medicine. Working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic inspired her to redirect her career. Through her work at the Douglas Murray Trust, Kabane has helped lead the trust’s #KeReady campaign. The campaign encourages young people to get vaccinated, with the chance to win weekly prizes through creative social media posts. In addition to increasing vaccination rates among the youth, Kabane wants to improve healthcare access for the country’s most marginalised people.
- Malebo Malope (30) is the first black genetic counsellor in South Africa and currently oversees the Medical Genetics and Genetic Counselling unit in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University. Malope is a PhD candidate at UCT, and her research focuses on patient and health professionals’ experiences and perceptions on termination of pregnancy for foetal abnormalities.
Law and justice
- Ashleigh Dore (33) is a wildlife and law project manager at the Endangered Wildlife Trust. She is dedicated to conservation and strives for an effective criminal justice process for wildlife and other environmental offences. She graduated with her master’s in environmental law from UCT.
Mining and manufacturing
- Lindy Scott (34) is the founder and creative director at Amber, a company established out of the need to increase safety in industries such as mining. Amber’s offering includes ready-to-run safety campaigns, workshops, how-to guides, posters and ways to document insights and lessons learned to build evidence for reports and audits. Her vision is to save lives through creativity in the workplace. Scott concluded a short course in occupational health and safety at UCT.
- Tebogo Ratsoma (24) is studying medicine at UCT and is the founder of Loving Little Feet (LLF), which she established in 2021 after witnessing the effects of COVID-19 on impoverished families. LLF collects donations of new and old children’s clothing and distributes them across the country.
Technology and Innovation
- Gokul Nair (30) 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. Nair graduated with his degree in mechanical and biomedical engineering from UCT.
- Kialan Pillay (21) is a software development engineer at Amazon Web Services. He is 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 and machine learning, two areas he believes can have vast and impactful applications in almost all areas of society. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science mathematical statistics from UCT.
- Maloba Tshehla (33) is the head of strategy and growth at Ed Platform – a development economic adviser for a range of diverse role-players in the renewable energy and mining sectors. The organisation works directly with regulators, corporates and community members to create real, sustainable economic change. In addition, 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 him. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from UCT.
- Confidence Tshilande (32) is the founder and director of Prestiio, a social media and networking platform exclusively developed for women where they can safely interact, connect, inspire and uplift each other. She’s an engineer by profession and holds a master’s in geotechnical engineering from UCT.
Politics and government
- Itumeleng Makoena (27) is an economist at Trade and Industry Policy Strategies, a think tank that develops research that informs industrial policy and economic development strategies, and facilitates dialogue around economic issues in the country. Mokoena finds great fulfilment in this work, as he can see the impact that its research has had on strategic choices made by relevant policymakers and government bodies. He graduated with his master’s in international relations from UCT.
If we have left anyone out, please accept our sincere apologies and please let us know.
See the list in full.