Luvuyo Rani is the co-founder and managing director of Silulo Technologies and is a 2016 Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the year. Silulo operates IT training centres in townships and rural areas of South Africa, providing job opportunities for unemployed youth. It has successfully partnered with corporations such Microsoft and Vodacom to refer job seekers.
How are you working to tackle the unemployment problem in South Africa, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world?
We have built a network of one-stop shops based in the townships, in the rural areas where services like ours are non-existent. Our students follow a six month course in relevant IT skills, and they will then find employment or start their own business to bring those lessons back to their townships. Approximately 70% of the customer base is young people and the other 30% is the elderly, many of whom have never been exposed to technology – our oldest student was 78!
What is the scale of the unemployment problem? Is it as bad as reported?
If you look at the township of Khayelitsha, which is the second biggest township in South Africa with a population of 1.5 million, it has an unemployment rate of 50%. Of these, 50% are young people. The gap in IT skills has never been systematically tackled. We currently work in two of the nine provinces in South Africa, but the scale of the problem is vast, and IT skills are needed in every township, in every area.
How are you working to scale your model?
We want to be in every province in South Africa by 2025. Our success going forward is going to be based on partnerships – with both the government and the private sector. We'll also develop our offerings in other services, such as training in e-commerce and coding.
A key issue for the World Economic Forum this year is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In terms of your business and your sector, what do you see as the biggest opportunities that this technological revolution poses?
We are integrating tablets into learning, as they are the future of the workplace. When students go into the world of work, more and more things will be done using tablets or smartphones, so if our students can learn to send a quote or a tender using a tablet, this is extremely valuable.
What kind of advice would you have for young people who are inspired by your work and want to act?
It’s very important to love what you do. Creating social impact is hard work – it’s not easy and calls for a strong character and passion. It’s important to focus on one thing and build it step by step, as that’s how you learn. Sometimes it can be frustrating – for example, the issue of funding – but if you’re pushing and your heart is in the right place and you are clear about where you want to go, things have a way of working out.
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