Dr McLean Sibanda to feature in the Most Innovative Companies Summit and Awards

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ


In the next few hours, Fast Company SA will be hosting the Most Innovative Companies Summit and Awards. The summit will feature leaders of some of South Africa’s innovative companies.

One of them is Dr McLean Sibanda, former CEO of Innovation Hub, which plays an important role in developing innovative companies in the Gauteng province.

Sibanda will talk about his role in driving innovation in Gauteng townships based on his book, Nuts & Bolts. In his book, he provides practical insights on innovation and entrepreneurship for Africa’s development through a narrative of his seven years of repositioning Sub-Saharan Africa’s first internationally recognised Science and Technology Park, The Innovation Hub.

Included in his book are reflections from entrepreneurs who have all gone on to build successful businesses which will be useful for anyone working on a start-up or innovation, particularly institutions set up to create new products or services.

The musings of various successful entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders provide relevant context, inspiration and examples as to how best make use of support programmes provided by incubators and organisations similar to The Innovation Hub.

In discussing the innovation ecosystem in South Africa, he will be joined by Dr Sumarie Roodt, co-chairperson of the Silicon Cape, another innovation and startup entity based in Cape Town. Dr. Sumarie Roodt is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Systems in the Commerce Faculty at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She has been teaching and conducting research here since 2012. She has also taught at the University of Pretoria (UP) in the Department of Informatics in the Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology faculty. Before joining academia however, she worked as a project manager and strategy consultant for a number of years. Sumarie is a National Research Foundation (NRF) rated researcher in the Young Emerging Researcher category. We are excited to have on board!

You can register to attend the Fast Company Most Innovative Companies virtual event here: https://bit.ly/2PUTvTk.


Bill Gates vs The Pandemic: Inside the Gates Foundation fight against the Pandemic

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

He warned, in 2010, that the H1N1 outbreak was a “wake-up call” for the world to prepare for a deadly pandemic.Bill Gates has been predicting for years: a deadly virus with the potential to sicken millions of people and devastate the global economy.

The new coronavirus, which the World Health Organization had named SARS-CoV-2 four days earlier, was the nightmare scenario that Bill Gates had been predicting for years: a deadly virus with the potential to sicken millions of people and devastate the global economy. He had warned, in 2010, that the H1N1 outbreak was a “wake-up call” for the world to prepare for a deadly pandemic. Five years later, as Africa was reeling from an Ebola outbreak, he told an audience at the TED conference that the biggest killer the world was likely to face in the near future was “a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” and that a coming virus could potentially be far worse than Ebola: Ebola doesn’t spread through the air, and only the sickest patients, those likely to be bedridden, are infectious.

However, he told the crowd, “you can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane or they go to a market.” He echoed the same concerns at other conferences and to politicians, including, in 2018, President Donald Trump. “When I spoke to the current administration,” Bill Gates says, “I highlighted that this is something that they can show leadership on, and connected it to a desire to improve [U.S.] security defense. I thought it was a theme that might play well, but we see now that we weren’t ready.

Being right, Bill and Melinda have learned during the 20 years they’ve

spent battling to improve global health, offers little comfort.

And yet they continue to describe themselves as “impatient optimists,” believing both that major challenges are solvable and that change needs to happen as soon as possible. The couple, who make all major decisions together, have devoted their lives to putting this philosophy into action to fight global inequities, even when that comes at a personal cost, such as becoming the subject of scrutiny and outlandish conspiracy theories.

The pandemic has forced them and their foundation to move even faster. Strategy “usually evolves over years, and not weeks,” says Jennifer Alcorn, the foundation’s deputy director of philanthropic partnerships. When the outbreak became a pandemic, it presented the biggest challenge that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has ever faced. The world has never confronted the need to create a vaccine for nearly the entire global population. But Bill Gates believed that the organization was in a unique position to help.

Today, the Gates Foundation has become enmeshed in every aspect of the fight against COVID-19. It has poured more than $680 million into the development of vaccines, drugs, and low-cost COVID tests, along with work to strengthen health systems and mitigate the economic effects of the crisis. It has also helped set up new systems designed to make vaccines and antivirals available and accessible to the whole world, despite the growing tide of “vaccine nationalism”—competition between countries to hoard supplies. In fact, the organization provided an additional $300 million forgivable loan to help make vaccines that cost no more than $3 a dose, to be distributed through networks that the foundation helped create.

How the Gates Foundation has responded to the pandemic offers a rare window into the way in which this powerful philanthropic organization operates: how it places its bets, how it dispenses its $49.8 billion endowment, and how it uses its soft power to further larger aims. The foundation’s outsize presence has inspired hope, suspicion, and meaningful critiques—mainly for its ability to influence outcomes without the same accountability citizens expect of public health officials.

“A fundamental question is, Well, because you have the money, should you be able to control the architecture of global health?” asks Brook Baker, a North eastern University law professor focused on intellectual property rights and universal access to treatments for HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. “In many people’s minds, the Gates Foundation is playing a bigger role in establishing the foundation of global health than anything else, including the WHO.” (The foundation is one of WHO’s largest funders as well.) Counters Rajeev Venkayya, president of the global vaccine development unit at Takeda Pharmaceutical and a former director of vaccine delivery at the Gates Foundation, “They have a seat at the table, not just because they have money, but because they add value in helping to design very effective programs.” Both of these perspectives have merit. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, with more than 1 million deaths so far and governments struggling to manage the problem, the Gates Foundation has helped fill critical gaps. But the pandemic response also raises questions about philanthropy’s function in public health, and what it will take for the world to be prepared for the next deadly virus.

This is an extract from the latest Fast Company (SA) magazine.


These South African legacy companies did not survive the lockdown

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

It’s a sad day when legacy businesses have to close up shop, oftentimes due to failure to innovate and keep up with the times, not adapting to changing consumer demands, or being too slow to transition online.

Even sadder is when none of these are the reason, but rather that business has simply declined due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and consumer layoffs.

Over the past year, consumers have been shocked and saddened as more and more popular and much-loved businesses are bidding farewell.

These are some of the household names that unfortunately, did not make it to the other side:


Part of the Clicks group, Musica announced all their stores will officially close on 31 May 2021.

Since the start of the year, 19 Musica stores have shut down while another 59 are currently trading.

“Musica has been operating in a declining market for several years owing to structural shifts globally to the digital consumption of music,” said Clicks group. This has led to the inevitable demise of the brand, accelerated by Covid-19 and the rapid decline of foot traffic into their stores.


After 37 years of service, the popular Greyhound bus company officially stopped their services on 14 February. Although Greyhound did not reveal what led to its closure decision, South Africa’s lockdown restrictions caused a massive decline in long-distance and inter-provincial travel.

Following the announcement, the Democratice Alliance issued a statement calling for the government to intervene to prevent the shutdown. They believe The closure of Greyhound and Citiliner will leave a massive gap in the affordable long-distance travel sector as thousands of South Africans have for decades relied on these services.


Print media has long been a dying industry but Covid-19 was the nail in the coffin for many publications. Sadly, legacy publications including Media24’s Men’s Health and Women’s Health have ceased operations, while Die Burger moved solely to being a digital publication. In addition, Associated Media, which published Cosmopolitan, House & Leisure, Good Housekeeping and Women on Wheels, shut down in June last year. The closure of the company, established in 1982, was a huge blow to the magazine industry and consumers alike.


Owners of Edgars, Jet and CNA, clothing retail company Edcon filed for bankruptcy. The company revealed to suppliers that they were unable to settle their bills. Lockdown restrictions, which initially banned clothing sales, seemed to be the nail in the coffin for the retailer. CEO Grant Pattison said that it might not be possible for the company to reopen after the lockdown. In a survival plan, the company will be closing a third of its stores over the next two years.


Comair, the owner of Kulula and local operator of British Airways also filed for bankruptcy protection during the lockdown. However, in October last year, the company was able to secure financing from banks, paving the way for the resumption of flights in December. They were also able to reach an agreement with labour unions. While this helped the company survive for now, a dip in demand or reinforced travel restrictions could lead to encorfed closure.


Meet the jury of the 2021 Most Innovative Companies Awards

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Welcome to the 2021 Most Innovative Companies Awards, South Africa’s most prestigious competition honouring innovation in business. We’ve engaged respected South African innovation thinkers and thought leaders to judge the awards. Meet them below.

Dr Audrey Verhaeghe

Dr Verhaeghe is Chairperson of Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS), Chairman of The SA Innovation Summit (SAIS), and championed the SA Innovation Network (Saine). She spearheaded transforming the SA Innovation Summit into becoming a local institution and turned it into the major event it is today. She has been an adjudicator at various innovation competitions, published a number of articles on innovation as a business process, and mentored numerous student research studies in the same area. Dr Verhaeghe completed an MBA titled Appraising Innovation in Technology-based Research Organisations at the University of Pretoria and a PhD entitled “A sustainability index for Technology-driven organisations in South Africa” at the Da Vinci Institute.

Saberi Marais

As the technology commercialisation manager, Saberi’s has been at the forefront of assisting researchers and innovators to commercialise their outputs. He works towards the valorisation of UCT’s intellectual property, and securing funding for technology development, commercialisation and start-ups. He has collaborated with tech and non-tech business incubators, government agencies, and an array of local businesses to help them realise their goals.

Saberi was the Head of the Seed Fund Programme (where he oversaw the implementation, management and pipeline growth of the early stage technology-enabling Fund), Acting Executive for the Agency’s Innovation-Enabling Division, and a Regional Business Development Manager at the Technology Innovation Agency. He completed his MBA at Stellenbosch University; and undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Molecular and Cell Biology at UCT.

Wesley Diphoko

Wesley Diphoko has been working at the intersection of technology, media, and communications across organisations. Wesley worked for the University of the Western Cape as its head of online communications where he led its initial Web 2.0 initiatives. He later joined South Africa’s leading media company to develop its innovation lab that formed part of the transition from print to digital. He also worked within the South African technology startups ecosystem serving as the Director of Africa’s first technology incubator, the Bandwidth Barn. In early 2020, Wesley was named Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company South Africa. He also serves as the chairman of the IEEE Open Data Initiative.


Join one of the first South African clubs on Clubhouse

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Wake Up South Africa is stimulating the most amazing conversations with South Africans on both informal and more serious issues surrounding the country.

Clubhouse is the latest social media platform to take South Africa by storm. Although this voice-based platform is by invite only and for now, only available to Apple users, five South African friends have launched Wake Up South Africa, a new breakfast talk show on Clubhouse from 08h00 – 09h00 every weekday. It’s a show made by South Africans, for South Africans.

‘Wake Up South Africa’ is hosted by South Africa’s own Good Things Guy Brent Lindeque, Nick Jordaan, the lead singer of Rubber Duc, Patunia Makobolola, Director at Basilmin Event’s & Activations Agency, Simon Swanepoel, CEO of RocketNet and Danny Figueiredo, Director of Connect Entertainment. The chat is freely available to Clubhouse members in South Africa and expats around the globe.

Brent says that as one of the first South African clubs on Clubhouse, the show is having the most amazing conversations with South Africans on both informal and more serious issues surrounding the country. He says: “It’s the most incredible space to share ideas and to start important conversations about South Africa. Even though the app doesn’t have a huge local presence yet it’s growing at a rapid rate. The club we’ve created to host Wake Up South Africa, in just three short weeks, is growing every day and the discussions we’re having are so hopeful, so positive and so inspiring. These chats remind us why we’re so proudly South African and it honestly feels like going to a therapy session every morning between 08h00 and 09h00. You start the day with the most positive feeling.

What started in March 2020 as an intimate gathering space for the early adopter crowd has boomed and now the Clubhouse app has collectively over 10 million users – many of which are South African.

The clubs are vast and all incredibly interesting, but about a month ago, even though South Africans were on the platform, there was little to no South African presence. In response the friends joined forces to start one of South Africa’s first clubs called ‘Wake Up South Africa’.

The club opens every weekday morning at 8 am and the conversation sways from political to motivational and even the odd, hilarious joke.


Fast Company SA’s Most Productive People 2021

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Our Most Productive People issue studies the habits of people who are shaping society in a new Covid-19 world.

Fast Company SA is proud to present our 2021 Secrets of the Most Productive Peoples issue. Currently on shelf, this issue has been studying the habits of the people who are shaping our society since its inception.

The way society measures productivity has changed. Working from home has disrupted the ability to measure productivity in the traditional manner of office hours. Through the stories of high performers we have featured in this issue, we take you through a productivity approach that allows you to perform better while working from home in 2021.

This issue is filled with practical guidelines that you can use to better work remotely with your colleagues, and still deliver results.

Our cover feature focuses on someone whose productivity is out there for the world to see. Serena Williams tells us how she manages to juggle her multifaceted responsibilities as not just a tennis player but also as a mother, an investor and wife to a leading tech entrepreneur.

We also take lessons from South African inspirational figures like Siba Mtongana, Nicolette Mashile and Nic Haralambous who, despite the lockdown, were able to pursue their business dreams.

In this issue we also pay attention to someone who has been trending on Twitter due to misinformation. Bill Gates has been dominating conversations about vaccines. To clear the air, we go inside his organisation, which is behind some of the major global vaccination breakthroughs, to get a better sense of the truth behind his work in the healthcare sector.

As 2021 kicks into full swing, we see a glimmer of light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel. At the time of writing, South Africa is kickstarting the vaccination process with a Johnson & Johnson vaccine after handing over the AstraZeneca vaccine to other African countries where the South Africa discovered variant is not yet present.

The speed with which vaccines have been developed is something that we should never take for granted. It is a clear indicator that as a society we should value research and innovation and support those productive members of our society who are at the forefront of innovations that are saving lives today. Instead of spreading false information about vaccines, we should celebrate those who have worked hard to make them available.

South Africa and the African continent had to rely on other parts of the world for a functional vaccine.

This should serve as an important lesson for leaders that more investment in research and innovation is critically needed in order for South Africa to develop a vaccine locally, if ever needed in future.

As long as Covid-19 is with us we should adapt and accept that there’s a new normal. Businesses need to approach everything with a different mindset. Business models and practices need to change if we are to survive and remain productive.

We hope that this issue of Fast Company (SA) will equip you with all the necessary insights to be more productive throughout the year 2021. Grab your copy at your nearest Exclusive Books store.