A remote rural community in the Eastern Cape, home to nearly 6 000 people, is at the heart of an inspiring and innovative ‘Do It Yourself’ project that is owned and run by a rural cooperative.

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) are spearheading a project, with a cooperative of ten respected local residents, that has made it possible for this impoverished community to connect to the internet – and all for just R25 per month per household. The project is known as the Zenzeleni Networks project and is being implemented by the Technology Innovation Agency. Zenzeleni means ‘do it yourself’ in isiXhosa and this community has certainly done exactly that!

How it works?

Despite the fact that they are all but completely disconnected from the national electricity grid, the community members of Mankosi remain connected to the internet via Wi-Fi networks that are solar-powered. Each household pays their R25 fee and is then granted unlimited online access for 32 days with download speeds of approximately 2 048 Kbps.

This inspiring project is the first and only cooperative-owned internet service provider telecommunications network in South Africa, but there is no reason why this approach cannot be replicated by other motivated entrepreneurs driven to bring about change.

Identifying gaps

The Zenzeleni project is a perfect example of how great young minds can make a difference.

According to those involved in the project roll-out, before the new solar-powered Wi-Fi was implemented, residents of Mankosi were spending close to a quarter of their monthly wages on data and charging their cellphones at local shebeens.

Ambitious entrepreneurs identified these problems and gaps and sought to solve them in an effort to make life better for the entire community in an affordable, viable manner… and this is how incredible business ideas are born!

Would you like to become an entrepreneur who uplifts and empowers other South Africans? Then be sure to join the SA Teen Entrepreneur network today!