This led South African entrepreneurs Sabelo Sibanda and Thulisile Volwana to create a solar-powered tablet, in the hopes that the device would one day be used as a tool for education.
(WATCH VIDEO: Education key to Africa’s growing opportunity)
“Africa does have a habit of leapfrogging when it comes to certain technologies, like mobile phones. It’s extremely exciting to see not only what happens when people have access to information but when they have access to create their own on a tablet,” Sibanda told CNBCafrica.com.
“Ultimately we’re looking at ICT for education. We believe that education is the key to solving Africa’s problems, as the great Nelson Mandela said, and we would like to play our part in facilitating access to the biggest library in the world – the internet. It’s not so much a consumer product as it is a tool for driving development.”
THE HISTORY OF THE COMPANY
Volwana and Sibanda started ecommerce company, Millbug in 2012 after the latter had a meeting with World Wide Creative chief executive, Fred Roed.
“I was working in advertising at the time. The day I met Fred Roed, he spoke about the need for entrepreneurs in South Africa and the opportunities that seem to abound. That very same day, we registered Millbug – without a business plan, without a direction – we just knew that we were going to do ecommerce,” Sibanda said.
“We were selling to millennials. We figured we wouldn’t try to be something we’re not and sell to people we don’t understand, but [rather] to sell to people like Thulisile and myself.”
EXPERIENCES AND AN IDEA
However, during their research, Sibanda and Volwana acquired some interesting insight on the needs of people and how they use the internet.
This then led to the development of a solar-powered tablet as a means to somehow address those needs.
“We figured the easiest way to get our tablet out there was to literally start from scratch and to have a manufacturer offshore manufacture it for us because when we compared them to local ones, they were just so much cheaper,” said Sibanda.
“My parents were living in Kenya and there, if you didn’t have a generator, your life stopped when there were power cuts. Thulisile, my partner, grew up in a quasi-rural area and electricity was not exactly 100 per cent. We were fortunate, or unfortunate depending on how one looks at it, to have experienced those infrastructure backlogs first hand and we figured, ‘let’s create a solution to this’.”
(READ MORE: Solar seen as solution to S.Africa’s power crisis)
The tablet uses Wi-Fi only for connectivity and takes at least eight hours to charge, but, according to Sibanda, once it is fully charged, it can last for up to two days.
COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY
Speaking from experience, Sibanda emphasised the need to adequately communicate and promote an idea or a product in order for others to buy into it.
The pair also indicated that they would be attending several expos and events to showcase the tablet and its features.
“In September there’s going to be the Smart Procurement World Expo at Gallagher Estate where we’ll be exhibiting. In October, there’s the Global Smart Partnership dialogue that will be happening with the Department of Communication and 53 Heads of State – that is definitely what we’ve been building up towards,” said Sibanda.
“It would be a lot easier to communicate the message about the tablet. They can hold it in their hands, get to use it. It would cut across a whole lot of back and forth as far as discussions on the phone [are concerned]. People would be able to use and see the value that it does already possess.”
The pair added that they had already formed solid relationships with interested parties in South Africa as well as in Botswana, Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe.