The businesswoman who believes that the best invention in our country will come from rural communities as they invent for survival, without support and opportunities.
For techie and entrepreneur Yandisa Sokhanyile, business has always been about making an impact in the community it exists in. From when she was an assistant, as a young schoolgirl in her family’s general dealer in Mount Ayliff, a rural town on the borders of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal, to now running her own business that provides free WiFi at public transport hubs, Sokhanyile still carries this ethos with her.
“I love sharing knowledge and I live for impact. In any space I have occupied I have always used my skills, contacts and position to drive change, especially for marginalised communities,” she says.
The 36-year-old is one of a cohort of young black women making an impact in the ICT sector.
Since registering her company Konecta — a business that builds wireless networks and develops platforms to gather analytics — Sokhanyile has been recognised as one of the country’s 50 most inspiring Women in STEM by the Netherlands embassy in 2019. She was a finalist in the Standard Bank Top Women awards for 2019 and is a member of the Chartered CIO Council, an advisory and advocacy council for the Media, Information and Technologies sector.
She views ICT as being central to South Africa’s endeavours to address cripplingly high unemployment. This, she adds, is especially critical in the context of the fourth industrial revolution and the potential it has to be a game-changer in the rural setting. “When I see how 4IR is being coded and also used as a buzzword, rural communities will be left out, not because they are not capable, but because of the language and code terminology used in information and communication technology. I strongly believe that the best invention of our country will come from rural communities as they invent for survival, without support and opportunities,” she says.
As a result of this, Sokhanyile hosts a tech feature on Umhlobo Wenene, a Xhosa language public radio station that attracts over five million listeners, most of whom are in the rural areas. This reach is important to her, not only for sharing and unpacking developments in ICT in an accessible manner for the listeners, but also to inspire other women and young girls in those areas to see one of their own in this world.
“There is definitely a huge gender gap in the ICT sector, and we definitely need more women to partake in the journey. ICT cuts across every sector right now and has more opportunities.”
She adds: “It starts with us, as women in the sector, to actively advocate for others to come on board, to highlight the opportunities, and give mentorship to those who are still outside. It is not about having a seat at the table, but about bringing others in and building longer tables.”
This is why she is excited about her 4IR feature and the 4IR portal she is launching. This portal will share opportunities, training courses, and a business connector for SMMEs in 4IR.
“We all have a responsibility to pass the baton and to open doors for others. It is a noble thing to do, but a necessity to grow impact as black communities,” she says.
Although business has always come naturally to the mother of one — she registered her first business at the age of 19 and has stakes in other enterprises — she is continually learning about business and leadership. Her inspiration is drawn from her own purpose, which she takes from the direct translation of her name “to add value” to those around her.
“My power comes from God. I never take for granted his grace upon my life and I am fuelled by lots of strong cups of coffee. Leadership is critical in business that entails seeing the potential in your team and developing it, getting people to perform at their utmost best.”