By age 22, Rapelang Rabana had already taken the tech world by storm. She first appeared on Oprah’s Magazine’s O Power List in 2012 and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in 2013. Earning features in these two prominent magazines did not come out of nowhere but due to her skills in the tech industry.
She co-founded Yeigo, which designed and developed some of the world’s earliest mobile VoIP applications, using broadband to deliver voice communications. Her company was the first free VoIP mobile service provider in South Africa.
What’s more, Yeigo allows users who have downloaded the application to speak to other users for free in social networks like Facebook, Skype, GoogleTalk and MSN Messenger.
Following the success of Yeigo, Rabana thought about how to turn phone addiction into something useful. This gave birth to Rekindle Learning, turning people’s urge to check their phones into an opportunity to learn. Essentially, the app wants to improve learning in Africa.
Rekindle’s app works in a comprehensive fashion. The app works on small phones and has offline features as well, thereby giving every user a chance. The tech entrepreneur thinks targeting mobile phone users is the right way to go.
Her position is not wrong per data on mobile and laptop usage in sub-Saharan Africa. Available figures show only 2 percent of the continent’s population use laptops compared to 67 million smartphones in Africa. And this number is expected to increase fourfold by 2025.
“I see Rekindle Learning enabling people to build knowledge from the palm of their hands. From school children, to young high school graduates, to entrepreneurs, to women farmers,” Ozy quotes her as saying.
Rabana was born in Botswana but moved to South Africa when she was 10 years old to school. She went to a prestigious private school in Johannesburg. She graduated with honors from the University of Cape Town with a degree in business science (computer science specialty) in 2005.
Coding wasn’t something Rabana liked but she quickly grew to enjoy it. “You could think up your own stuff and actually create something from the figment of your imagination, from nothing — there seemed to be real power there,” she explained.
After graduating from the University of Cape Town, she went on to start her own venture. “Becoming an entrepreneur at 22 was for me like putting a stick in the ground marking the end of a life by default and the start of intentional living,” she noted. Her first startup Yeigo launched in February 2007 in South Africa. A year later, Swiss company Telfree bought 51 percent of the company.