Congratulations to all the graduates at McAuley House

Sponsored by Delta, McAuley House students graduate from the Digital Enterprise Programme

Today, McAuley House Grade 10 and 11 students who participated in the JA South Africa Digital Enterprise Programme had their graduation ceremony. Thank you to Delta Airlines, a global sponsor of JA Worldwide, for sponsoring this programme locally.

One of the student company teams at McAuley House is Meraki, which won the South African national Company of the Year Competition. Four team members will represent South Africa at the Africa regional competition. In early December teams from 14 countries will meet in Ghana, which is the 2018 host country as well as the country where the JA Africa regional office is based.

The Meraki team are busy refining their presentations and their products in preparation for travelling to Ghana. They have also had to quickly apply for passports and visas to make sure they are ready to travel.

We wish them all the best with their preparations and we will keep you posted on their adventures in Ghana.

Digital Enterprise Programme students visit the GE Innovation Centre

General Electric’s Londvolota Trust sponsors two Digital Enterprise Programmes, including a site visit to the GE Innovation Centre

Students at Ponelopele and Sandtonview high schools in Johannesburg, who are participating in General Electric (GE) sponsored Digital Enterprise Programmes, were fortunate to visit the GE Innovation Centre in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

Organised by Celiwe Zondo of GE, the students were taken through the process of design-centred innovation by consultant Kathy Berman. The student teams had a chance to present their ideas and gain constructive feedback that they can now apply as they repeat the design process to refine and evolve their ideas as needed.

The key learning the students took away  is that the process of refining your ideas is critical to success. It is only through repeating the process of testing your ideas and then making changes that you can come up with innovative sustainable solutions that stand the test of time.

For more information on a design-centred approach to innovation see this article, which goes through the steps of this method.

Design-thinking as an approach to shaping innovation

JASA programmes incorporate a design-thinking approach to innovation

In JASA programmes, the facilitators introduce learners to design thinking, a step-by-step approach to coming up with innovative solutions to problems. Students are encouraged to look around their environments and identify problems they want to tackle. Then the students work on innovations that will provide solutions, in the form of products or services.

But first… what is an innovation?

Well, it is a new idea, method or product.

  • It can improve an existing solution, such as cars becoming more efficient, or mobile phones having better cameras.


  • It can be new and disruptive.

Examples of disruptive innovations include:

  • Digital film technology completely overtook the traditional film industry
  • Airbnb has disrupted the traditional hotel model by linking host accommodation to potential guests. Since they don’t own hotels or employ staff this means far less risk for the company.

Sometimes, taking the initiative to apply an existing solution to solve a problem in your community can be innovative since you are using a method that wasn’t there before.

At age 14 William Kwamkamba built a windmill to power his family’s home. Even though windmills existed in the world, he found a cost-effective way of making one. You can hear his story here.

One South African innovator is Danielle Mallabone. When she was 17 years old, after seeing the film Titanic, she was inspired to create a thermal lifejacket. She even tested it herself by being immersed in 10° C water for an hour! Luckily the heat effect of her lifejacket worked. You can read about her story here.

So what is the process of design thinking and why is it effective to come up with solutions?

Design-centred innovation 

1. Recognise a need, challenge, opportunity or pain point

The first step is to look around you to see what needs there are in your community and identify a problem you want to address.

2. Understand your operating environment

Speak to those affected by the problem to help you generate products and services that people need and want.

3. Frame issue – Problem Statement

You need to keep questioning to scratch below the surface to understand the problem from different angles and to see what the real issues are.

4. Ideation

Once you have decided on a problem, consider many options of how to address it and write down all the ideas you and your team think of.  Handle your new ideas with care because they can be fragile until they are developed.

Listen to feedback. Perhaps you have a good idea but there is already a product on the market. Maybe your idea has a flaw that you hadn’t noticed. Useful feedback may mean that you have to rethink your idea. Most entrepreneurs go through this process of refining their ideas, over and over again. Those that succeed are the ones who didn’t give up!

4. Prototype and test

You can also make sketches of your ideas or basic prototypes using materials such as cardboard, glue, pens etc. Making a model in the early stages makes it easier to test your idea in the real world.

5. Iteration (repeat the process)

You may need to test your idea and then make changes and go through this process a few times. Often an initial idea will change into something different. Allow this to happen.

JASA facilitators have been hosting two-day workshops on design thinking for learners on some JASA programmes and the insights gained will be taken into consideration in the programmes review.

Avive Papier, a learner at Orion Secondary School in De Aar, said this method gave her a way to gain insight into how things could be improved. Students were encouraged to use anything around them to make prototypes and they found the process so exciting that they didn’t want to stop.

Design-based innovation is used at the SABS Design Institute. An industrial designer and mentor there, Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, explains this process here. Recently nine JASA Alumni and Junior Innovators Competition winners from the past years went through a year-long incubation programme, were they repeated the design innovation steps until they came up with refined ideas that they could prototype. You can read about their journey here.

Here are two examples of emerging companies in South Africa who have come up with innovative solutions to problems.

Empty Trips

Have you ever thought about what happens to the empty space on trucks doing return trips. Well nothing really… until recently. Empty Trips are launching an online trip exchange platform designed to match transport companies having space capacity with those who can make use of it, through an online auction system. This start-up won the Africa Chivas Regal Pitching Den Competition at the 2017 SA Innovation Summit. They represented South Africa at the 2018 Startup World Cup in San Francisco on May 11.


Spoon is another company addressing a local market. There are around 800 000 stokvels in South Africa and yet these informal savings groups, and the people who borrow from them, cannot gain access to the traditional banking industry. This is where Spoon steps in as an intermediary, by providing an online stokvel management system and providing 30-day loans to the stokvels to pool their money for the collective benefit of all members.

Anyone can follow the tried and tested design-centred approach to come up with a solution to a problem.

JA Alumni Graduation: SABS Design Institute and Investec Accelerator Programme

Nine JA Alumni graduated from a pilot Accelerator Programme, through a partnership between SABS Design Institute and Investec 

Congratulations to the nine JA alumni who recently graduated from the pilot Accelerator Programme, made possible through a partnership between Investec and the SABS Design Institute. The nine participants attended JA programmes and then went on to become winners at Investec’s Junior Innovators Competition before being selected for this process.

The graduation ceremony took place at Investec’s offices in Sandton, Johannesburg on Tuesday 3 April. Graduates were joined by Investec, SABS Design Institute and JASA staff members. The Accelerator Programme provided an opportunity for the participants to refine their business ideas and develop 3D prototypes of their products, under the guidance of SABS Design Institute staff, over the course of a year. One of their mentors, an industrial designer at the SABS Design Institute, Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, explains the process.

We cannot disclose any of their exciting innovations until the products are patented but watch this space as we follow the progress of these entrepreneurs in the making. At the ceremony some participants shared their experiences on the programme. Kate Kekana, who went to Sandtonview Combined School in Alexandra and did a JASA Programme in 2013, listed the Ds of what she has learnt: “To be an entrepreneur requires devotion, determination and decisiveness. You need to have a dream and create something desirable to see your destiny.”

She describes the process of becoming an entrepreneur as starting something new and this involves taking a risk – not only financially but also psychologically – in order to focus on your goal. “We are game-changers and we want to change the world. We all have the courage to go out into the wilderness and stand in front of investors and persuade them to invest in our ideas. We need to be resilient to criticism. A wise man once said that knowing how to think empowers a person far beyond those who know what to think.”

Another graduate, Lebogang Mogale, also from Sandtonview, explained how thinking through her idea uncovered some complications she had not expected. This is common in the early phases of developing an idea and thus it is important to be flexible. It was through figuring out how to deal with complications that the product evolved into something better.

“Learning to accept criticism enables you to collaborate with other people and be creative and invent things together rather than just sticking to one idea. You need strategic relationships – these are the people who are going to be honest with you and urge you to do your best and push you to work hard. I was very shy when I started at JASA but not anymore. There is no place for it. Leave you shyness in your suitcase,” Mogale said.

Thandolwethu Magagule, who did a JASA programme at Suikerland Secondary School in Malelane, came up with many complicated ideas before he started to refine one idea and work on the prototype phase (and no, sorry we cannot disclose this one either, at least not until it is prototyped and patented). “When there are negative things you can change them into positive stones to build your bridge,” he said. “I am grateful for this programme, which will benefit me for a lifetime.”

Ashley Dhlamini started her entrepreneurial journey in a JASA programme at Dawnview High School in Germiston, Gauteng, in 2015. She introduced herself as an inventor and an economist in the making and explained how the idea she came up with for JIC has evolved through the Accelerator Programme to become a unique innovation that utilises existing technology in a new way. She remarked on how most of the group had developed their initial ideas in new directions but that this was good because it helped them to shape better products. The path to refinement may seem long but it really pays off.

“Pressure makes diamonds and look at me here. We spoke to strangers, people who didn’t believe in our ideas and people who were busy, but here we stand together. Nothing works better than simply an improved product,” she said.

Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, an industrial designer at the Design Institute who worked closely with the programme participants, gave a glimpse into the process. A product begins with an idea, in a sketch or in words on paper. This can be very rough at first but through development it can turn into a unique innovation. Once the idea is more refined then the next step is to create a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing from which a model can be printed in 3D. Having something solid is useful to show potential investors. In addition, a model forms the basis for creating a fully-fledged prototype. To do that involves the next step of accessing the suppliers, technology and engineering support needed.

Mkhwanazi and his colleague did a global search on the innovations being developed by the accelerator programme participants and, in some cases, they could not find a counterpart in the world. In one case, a similar product was in development in the US but that means the South African market is open for a similar product to be patented.

Investec and SABS are in discussion regarding how they can support these entrepreneurs on their journey further to continue with the rapid prototyping phase and find investment to take their products to market and to develop their businesses.

Setlogane Manchidi, Head of CSI at Investec, congratulated the graduates and urged them to realise their visions of making a mark in the world. In his address, SABS Design Institute Head Gavin Mageni emphasised the importance of entrepreneurship as a creator of opportunity in our current economic landscape, where jobs are scarce. He explained how innovation had made a resurgence in the past decades with the SABS Design Institute leading the way.

The Institute was founded in the Apartheid era as a reaction to sanctions, when imports into South Africa came to a halt. As a result, the Department of Trade and Industry were tasked with driving innovation internally since the country could not rely on sourcing from outside its borders.

Though the world was not supposed to do business with South Africa, curiously, exports out of South Africa were not restricted. During this time, around 700 innovations were developed and many of these were exported around the world. Then, after Apartheid ended, the focus shifted and innovation became neglected. However, over the past decades, innovation has once again became a priority and this accelerator programme is but one to create a resurgence of innovation, business and prosperity.

For more photos please see our Flickr album by clicking here.


Congratulations to graduates of Investec Properties-funded Entreprise Programme in Hammanskraal

Grade 12 graduates of the 2017 Investec-funded Academy Entrepreneurship Programme received JASA and Services SETA level 2 accredited certificates.

The classes took place at the Ratsepho High School in Hammanskraal, attended by 40 learners from four local high schools, PHL Moraka Secondary School, Ratshepo, Sikhululekile and Makgetse High Schools. One of the teams named themselves the YBE Mini Enterprise and produced two types of baskets made of wool and plastic, respectively.

My experience of this programme is beyond amazing because my company and I experienced many hardships but by working as a team we were able to conquer every obstacle that was on our way. I was able to lead and show people the way and able to learn about what goes into a fully functioning business. I intend on starting my own business one day and my goals seem to be getting closer every day. It is all thanks to JA South Africa, Investec, the national coordinator Mr Bonga Khumalo and someone who had faith in our company when times were hard, our facilitator Mr Kekana.

YBE General Manager Phenyo Mothobi


I am now business minded and know how it feels to be in the business world. My experience of being an accountants was so amazing because I was practicing my career. I am now able to communicate in different ways. Thank you JASA and Investec because I am a new person.

YBE Accountant Nothando Mmota


Being in the programme made me realise how much I am inspired by the business world, I can now see beyond my abilities as an entrepreneur.

YBE Admin assistant Reitumetse Mashishi


Graduation took place on January 21, 2018

A proud graduate