FROM GARDENER TO INTERNET ENTREPRENEUR

He hails from Ga-Dikgale, an activator with a desire to empower communities. A rural boy who didn’t have it easy when growing up, William Makgaba defied the odds by going to school and studying Computer Science, and then returned home to teach other young people in his community. 

 The 28-year old Makgaba’s initiative, the Vexospark Community Technology Centre, was recently chosen as the Emerging Youth Social Enterprise of the Year at the Emerging Social Enterprise Awards organised by the University of Johannesburg’s Centre of Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy (CSESE) and sponsored by PriceWaterCoopers (PWC) and Lifeco. The aim of the competition is to celebrate the emerging social enterprises showing potential of scaling up and making a huge impact.

 “The purpose of life is to help other people.” Those are the words of the Dalai Lama that keep Makgaba passionate about his desire to change the lives of rural inhabitants.

 Makgaba joined the ACTIVATE! network in 2012 and says that the platform helped him a lot in his work. “The ACTIVATE! network connects and networks young people with the same passion to make an impact for the less privileged,” Makgaba said.

 “Through the ACTIVATE! training, I have managed to be able to conceptualise and plan my next steps. Of the many tools I have been offered at ACTIVATE! for effective problem changing, the Project Planning always prevailed and assisted me in reaching the stage where I am right now.”

Makgaba has been a busy man in the field of community upliftment. He has established computer centres in five municipalities across the Limpopo Province, namely:

  • Nkowa 2 Centre in Greater Tzaneen Municipality;
  • Ikageng P.E.A.C.E Centre in Blouberg Municipality;
  • Mapela P.E.A.C.E Centre in Mogalakwena Municipality;
  • Matlata P.E.A.C.E Centre in Aganang Munipality;
  • Segopje P.E.A.C.E Centre and Nobody P.E.A.C.E Centre in Polokwane Municipality

 

“My focus for the establishment of these centres has been mainly in rural areas”, said Makgaba. “It is my intention to double or even triple the number of computer centres we already have in Limpopo,” he added.

To add to the community upliftment experience he possesses, Makgaba has assisted in the Inter-School debating competitions as team coach and formed a cleaning campaign in and around his community of Ga-Dikgale. The cleaning campaign is conducted quarterly whereby local people are invited to come and volunteer in a quest to keep the world a better place.

“Environment is very essential to us all, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep their space clean, hence we extended the invitations to the local people for cleaning assistance,” he said.  

Makgaba also facilitates at a youth club at Ga-Dikgale, his birthplace. The youth club’s daily activities include drama, poetry, dancing and singing. “I always have fun dealing with youth and by the looks of things, they enjoyed me too.” His statement is supported by the daily attendance at the centre, with over 100 young people showing up every day.

 

Additional involvements include:

            Developing a youth forum;

            Founded and co-ordinated a local community policing forum where he comes from;

            SRC President at Morutwa High School

Makgaba’s journey was not an easy one and he experienced many hiccups along the way. Due to lack of jobs and related opportunities in South Africa, he was forced to go work as a gardener in Pretoria after completing his BSC in Computer Science qualification.

“I decided to quit as a gardener because I knew I was destined for greater things in life. My current life is my testimony,” he declared.

 “It is not easy to accomplish and also to sustain such community projects,” he added. “The major challenge is lack of resources, but I am grateful to the individuals who always provided sponsorship and other forms of assistance.”

 Makgaba says that the Emerging Youth Social Enterprise of the Year award will also help immensely. “I will be able to provide further support to all the projects I have been busy with and if the opportunity arises, establish more community projects.” 

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