In a special 2019 series, Compelo is shining a spotlight on South Africa. Here, Dan Robinson profiles some of the emerging entrepreneurs in South Africa, who are helping to grow the economy of both country and African continent

South Africa entrepreneurs

South Africa's emerging entrepreneurs include (clockwise from top left) Nneile Nkholise, Vusi Thembekwayo, Louw Barnardt and Basetsana Kumalo

As the birthplace of Elon Musk, South Africa is associated with one of the world’s most prolific entrepreneurs as the SpaceX and Tesla founder continues to capture headlines.

But look beyond the eccentric entrepreneur-turned-CEO and there’s a thriving eco-system packed with aspiring businessmen and women.

We take a look at some of the rainbow nation’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs.


South African entrepreneurs

Rivo Mhlari

As co-founder and CEO of Rikatec, Rivoningo Mhlari has created technology that uses predictive analytics to keep vehicles on the road.

Rikatec’s information management system provides real-time predictive maintenance for vehicle fleets, while monitoring driving habits, wear and tear, and breakdown detection.

Rivo initially set up the company, based in Randburg on the outskirts of Johannesburg, as a marketing consultancy to host events and advise small businesses on strategy.

Rivo Mhlari (Credit: Twitter/@Rivo_Mhlari)

He used the money he made to develop prototypes of the data analytics software that he had initially pitched to 11 manufacturers and insurance firms – only to have been rejected.

After making it a success in reducing operational costs for fleet managers, the 24-year-old was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list of young technology entrepreneurs for Africa in June 2018

He was also listed as one of ten young African technology entrepreneurs to look out for by IT News Africa the following month.


Darlene Menzies

Winner of the World Economic Forum’s five top female tech entrepreneurs in Africa, Darlene Menzies is technology innovator who has established a number of fintech companies.

She is currently CEO of Finfind, an online platform that helps start-ups find funding. Launched in 2015, it now has more than 120,000 users and has facilitated more than 90,000 loan leads for SME lenders.

Her recognition from the World Economic Forum came 16 years after she left her corporate job in IT outsourcing to venture into the world of business.

Darlene Menzies (Credit: Finfind)

It wasn’t an easy journey, however, as Darlene started six companies and got liquidated three times before she found success.

Other businesses she set up included The Development House and SMEasy Business Software – both tech firms aimed at the small business and start-up market.

By 2017, she had raised 35m rand (£1.9m) in investment, while she has been a passionate advocate of how business can play a leading role in the fight against poverty in Africa.

Her personal motto is “to live an extraordinary life, you must resist an ordinary approach”.


Nneile Nkholise

In just four years, Nneile Nkholise has already founded two start-ups and taken on key roles in not-for-profit organisations.

A mechanical engineer by background, Nneile set up biotech company iMed Tech in April 2015 after carrying out a research topic in which she used 3D printing to create facial prosthesis for people who lose facial features due to cancer.

Her Johannesburg-based company specialised in using technology to create medical designs that could fill the gap of a growing prosthetic demand in South Africa and she received funding after winning the SAB Foundation social innovation award.

Nneile Nkholise

It led to her being named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Africa’s young technology entrepreneurs last year and she became a director of the Rhulani Mokwena Foundation – which aims to enhance the quality of football coaching in South Africa in order to achieve sustainable development goals – and fellow of the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance, a network of 250 African businessmen and women.

Nneile, now 30, has since left iMed Tech and last year founded 3DIMO, a sport tech company that aims to optimise injury detection and prevention using athlete-specific orthopaedic biomechanics data.


Vusi Thembekwayo

For the past 17 years, Vusi Thembekwayo has travelled the world as a business speaker, claiming to be the most sought-after from Africa.

Alongside his role in coaching others, he has achieved plenty of success as an entrepreneur and business leader in his own right.

By the age of 25, he was running a 400m rand (£22m) division in a 17bn rand (£930m) company and was later among the youngest directors of a listed company in South Africa.

Vusi Thembekwayo

He now serves on several boards and is CEO of boutique investment firm My Growth Fund and IC Knowledge Bureau, which helps businesses create better leaders, strategies and working cultures.

Vusi also claims to have many ideas on how to solve economic issues in Africa, manning a mission to “change the African narrative by challenging the mind-set and approach towards achieving economic freedom”.


Louw Barnardt

For many small businesses on tight budgets, hiring a chief financial officer can be an unattainable dream.

Recognising this, Louw Barnardt set up Outsourced CFO, which provides the financial advice and planning that will help SMEs to scale sensibly.

The company offers chartered accountants and finance professionals as consultants for a specific amount of hours each week that are tailored to its tech and innovation clients.

Louw Barnardt (Credit: LinkedIn/Louw Barnardt)

Louw, who is also CEO of a Cape Town property business and co-founded venture capital firm Glenheim, won the Entrepreneur of the Year competition in South Africa, backed by Sanlam and Business Partners, in the emerging entrepreneur category last year.

He was also named among the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants’ (SAICA) Top 35 Under 35 list of chartered accountants in 2015.


Basetsana Kumalo

The 1994 Miss South Africa winner and Miss World runner-up, Basetsana Kumalo has transitioned from beauty pageantry to business, carving out a successful entrepreneurial career.

She became one of the country’s youngest black female directors after becoming a joint shareholder of Tswelopele Productions – which later listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange – in 1995.

Basetsana Kumalo (Credit:

She remains executive chairwoman and has gone on to become a board member at numerous other companies involved in diamond mining, coal mining, property and travel management.

Basetsana also launched her own clothing, eyewear and cosmetics range, called Bassie, which was stocked in more than 250 stores in the Sub-Saharan region.

The 45-year-old, who is president of the Business Women’s Association of South Africa, has won numerous awards for her role in developing the South African economy.