Image by Lex Trickett

Sabelo Sibanda & Thulilsile Volwana – Changing the Tide of Tech

“Mobile has changed the face of Africa and it is now the time for Africa to change the face of mobile.”

  • Sabelo Sibanda

Wild winds rustle through industrial docks of a port-city. Waves draw over soft sandy banks. Established almost two hundred years ago, Port Elizabeth is notably known for its hospitable nature. However, given recent developments, the costal city may soon become a local tech hub.

In a recent conversation with Sabelo Sibanda, co-founder of Millbug – Africa’s first solar-powered tablet. He said, “being based in Port Elizabeth has been an incredible advantage in our line of business.” They do seldom frequent other capitals – like Johannesburg and Pretoria. However, the windy city has, “many logistics related advantages – the unemployment problem in the Eastern Cape is another motivator for maintaining operations there.”

Both he and his partner Thulilsile are driven by an insatiable desire to make a positive impact in their communities. It was this, that established Millbug and inspired the invention of a low-cost solar-powered Vuya Tablet PC. It was created specifically for rural markets in Africa, the device can be charged by the sun, thus broadening the scope to access of tech to areas without the formal infrastructure of electricity. “There are so many problems experienced, not only in South Africa, but the entire developing world. Should we focus on developing tech inclined solutions for them, we will all be much better off.”

The dynamic duo’s journey into tech innovation began when they met whilst studying at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2010. Only two years later they started their first company together. Incentivized by the wealth of opportunities in the sphere of e-commerce, the pair registered Millbug in 2012. Their potential was instantly recognized, and a month into the project they had been nominated for an e-commerce award. The invention continues to draw acclaim locally and abroad for its innovative strategy to broadening connectivity.

Sabelo believes that there is a vast scope for tech to generate employment among the youth, “entrepreneurs should familiarize themselves with the incredible opportunities available for youth development in South Africa. Public and private sector incumbents are really looking to partner with youth owned businesses for a myriad of reasons, we need to step up and make the most of these opportunities. Technology and innovation present a massive opportunity in this regard.”

The dawn of the new year brings with it further endeavors for Millbug – including distribution throughout the developing world. Sabelo and his team will also be launching something towards the end of the year.

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