The world can be a very dark place – in both the literal and figurative sense. Even though the majority of South Africans living in formal dwellings have access to basic needs such as water and electricity, many living in informal settlements such as shacks, do not. With the growing need and urgency to do something about the lack of access to electricity, South African entrepreneurs and childhood friends Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane started Repurpose Schoolbags – An organisation that recycles plastic bags and turns them into school bags. ‘Designed to do more with less’ the bags are distributed to school children in disadvantaged areas and are equipped with a solar panel that charges as the child walks to school. They generate up to 12 hours of power and have retro-reflective material that creates visibility for the child as he/she walks to school.
Both Rea and Thato grew up in Mogwase, a village in the North West. Rea is studying a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management whilst Thato studied towards a Bachelor of Arts in Brand Management. Having observed how children in less privileged communities often walked long distances in poorly lit communities with nothing but a cheap plastic bag to protect their school books, Thato developed the idea to create Repurpose Schoolbags. She roped in Rea and they founded Rethaka Trading. Their goal was to build “a purpose-driven business that does what is right, not what is easy”.
They started with the intention to, “make a problem work for us,” as Kgatlhanye says. It is with this intention that they continue to light up the world and aid in pioneering social entrepreneurship among the youth. They aim to expand this initiative to other developing countries to assist in job creation and up-skilling of communities.
Written By: Zuleka Pukwana, Staff Writer, #mygirlsquad