Eastern Cape PhD students put SA on map

Rhodes chemistry PhD students Gauta Matlou, Nobuhle Ndebele, Reitumetse Nkhahle and Lindokuhle Nene have come up tops in an international competition with their waste management system.
Rhodes chemistry PhD students Gauta Matlou, Nobuhle Ndebele, Reitumetse Nkhahle and Lindokuhle Nene have come up tops in an international competition with their waste management system.

Team E-Smart – Nobuhle Ndebele, 24, Lindokuhle Nene, 25, Reitumetse Nkhahle, 26 and Gauta Matlou, 29 – beat 45 other teams when they won the 2019 Hult Prize regional summit, which was held at the Brookhouse International School in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 19 and 20.

In its 10th year, the Hult Prize challenges innovative university and college students from across the world to create a social entrepreneurship start-up that will create more than10,000 meaningful jobs in the next decade.

From left, Lindokuhle Nene, Reitumetse Nkhahle, Nobuhle Ndebele and Gauta Matlou. They were awarded the top position in Africa for their electronic waste management system.
AGENTS OF CHANGE: From left, Lindokuhle Nene, Reitumetse Nkhahle, Nobuhle Ndebele and Gauta Matlou. They were awarded the top position in Africa for their electronic waste management system.
Image: SUPPLIED

The Team E-Smart business model aims to create job opportunities for the youth through collection of electronic and electrical waste materials and further recycling, repairing or re-purposing the waste into new market products. The project so impressed the judges that they were awarded the top position against 45 other teams from across the region.

Rhodes was the only South African university that participated in the challenge.

Team coach and senior lecturer at Rhodes Business School, Dr Tshidi Mohapeloa, said she had decided to help the students to understand the business language as they were scientists. “I am impressed with how they adapted and understood the business world. This is an opportunity for them to become entrepreneurs,” she said.

Matlou, the Team E-Smart leader, said: “The reason we chose a business model based on electronic waste was that electronics have hazardous components in them.”

Nene said they decided to be people who would stand up and create things for themselves.

“We the youth are the driving force and agents of change and improvement in our country. We want to lay a platform for generations to come after us.

“They must know that as a human being, you can do anything you put your mind to. Students need not limit themselves to the specific disciplines that they are doing,” she said.

According to Team E-Smart, South Africa annually produces about 316,000 tons of electronic waste.

Only about 12% is collected and recycled and it is exported to other countries.

The team wants to contribute to the economy while also promoting Proudly South African goods.

“The electronic waste that is currently not collected and recycled or re-purposed would raise about R15bn for the South African economy,” Nene said.

The team plans to visit schools across the country to raise awareness about electronic waste and its dangers while also inspiring young people to open their minds to the endless opportunities that exist if one looked at life in the right way.

Following this win, the team will spend eight weeks in the United Kingdom for the Hult-Prize acceleration programme, which started on Saturday. The programme aims to prepare the 25 winning teams from different regional summits for the final pitch competition, where the best business idea will win $1m (R14.3m) as a start-up injection.

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