Startups Top News Trailblazers

From spokesperson to CEO – Duduzile Mkhwanazi

Our Woman Crush Wednesday this week easily goes to Africa’s Digital Inclusion Activist, Duduzile Mkhwanazi – who is making waves on the African continent. If you’ve got a good memory – you’ll remember that we featured Dudu in last year’s All Women (August) Issue. At the time, Dudu was the spokesperson of the free WiFi advocacy NPO – Project Isizwe. Today, Dudu holds the title of – CEO of Project Isizwe! Talk about career goals?

  1. Tell us a bit about Project Isizwe?

Project Isizwe is an award winning, non-profit organisation which works with the public and private sector in order to bring internet access to people across South Africa, by facilitating and enabling the deployment of free internet hotspots within a walking distance in low-income communities. This would be for educational purposes, economic development and social inclusion. The best means of addressing inequality in our communities is the deployment of public or privately funded free WiFi throughout public spaces in low-income communities. To date, over 4,4 million unique citizens have connected to more than 1500 Isizwe-enabled Free WiFi hotspots across South Africa.

  1. What is your definition of an entrepreneur?

A person who sets up a business, taking financial risks in hopes of making a profit. I see an entrepreneur as someone who has confident, open minded, self-started, competitive and disciplined.

  1. Three words that best describe you?

Courageous, Optimistic, and Analytical.

  1. What is your opinion on the youth unemployment issue in South Africa?

South Africa has one of the highest inequality indexes in the world, which is already a worrisome factor to consider, and unfortunately the youth unemployment rate increases every year. Irrespective of educational level, youth who have less than a matric qualification is more likely to experience serious challenges when seeking employment.

Just the other day (31 July 2018), StatsSA announced that our country’s unemployment rate has increased to 27,2% due to an additional 102 000 people who lost their jobs between the first and second quarters of 2018.

This indicates that there is a need for both the public and private sector to jointly intervene and introduce means (with a focus on skills development and education) which can be implemented to eradicate unemployment in South Africa.

  1. Who is your role model in your profession?

Alan Knott-Craig jnr., the Chairman of Hero Telecoms.

  1. Give us a sketch of your role in your profession and tell us about what it took to get there?

I am the Chief Executive Officer of Project Isizwe. It has not been a clear-cut road to reach this milestone. I studied Political Science and worked in the political sphere. After months of rejection letters and failed social enterprise attempts, I got the opportunity to lead Project Isizwe.

I believe we are here on this earth to be of service to each other and positively contribute to humanity. Joining Project Isizwe over a year ago has made me feel like I am closer to achieving my purpose of service.

  1. What’s the one unpleasant thing that you have experienced in this career that you want to share with people?

The ICT sector in South Africa is dominated by white males. Being a young, black, female CEO has meant that I have to work twice as hard to achieve my goals, but I hope to inspire more young black women to enter this industry.

Would you say you’re a hunter or a gatherer?

I believe I am both a hunter and a gatherer. All depends which hat I am wearing.

  1. What’s the one thing that makes your blood boil?

Racism.

  1. What is this chapter in your life called?

Exploration.

  1. Tell us about your fears?

I am a single mother. I go to bed with so many fears, but I have the courage to conquer them for my daughter.

  1. If you were afforded the luxury to design your professional career or to be whatever it is you want to be, what would you be doing right now?

I would practice what I studied. I did my Masters’ Degree in Public Policy four years ago. I am still very passionate about getting involved in shaping and contributing to our country’s national policy making bodies. My current position allows me to influence one aspect of our National Policy, in terms of access to ICT infrastructure and bridging the digital divide in South Africa.

  1. What is your advice to the 13 year old version of you about her professional future?

It is not going to be easy, but you will make it because you are intelligent, brave and hard working.


Interview conducted by Baradi Moletsane (Editor-in-Chief)