Impact design is a relatively new concept in Africa but it’s picking up speed. Investors are paying more attention to drivers like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while entrepreneurs are starting to better understand and communicate the effect of their company, service or product on development. Vuyolwethu Dubese is blazing a trail in this industry, helping global organisations and entrepreneurs combine innovation and impact.
Vuyolwethu Dubese didn’t imagine when she started her impact design studio last year that she’d now be signing the company’s first six-figure deal. Innovtel, which opened its doors during the Covid-19 lockdown, now boasts a global clientele including the Mastercard Foundation and the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.
Impact isn’t just about the number of jobs you’re creating.
Vuyolwethu helps organisations and entrepreneurs understand the length and breadth of their impact by identifying the touchpoints of value that are created throughout the entire value chain of the business. “Impact isn’t just about the number of jobs you’re creating,” she says. “If you’re running a farm for example, your impact is in the materials you’re using, where you source them and internal metrics like how many women you’re hiring.”
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The 26-year-old entrepreneur’s career began in her hometown of Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town, when she joined a business incubation hub as a social-media intern. Soon after that, she had the unique opportunity to work as a producer and television host for a youth travel program which aired on the country’s national broadcaster.
The transition from media to impact design happened five years ago when she moved to global intelligence firm Thomson Reuters, managing projects to build ecosystems with start-ups, partners and customers for the Thomson Reuters Labs in Sub-Saharan Africa.
After a stint at impact and investment firm Impact Amplifier in 2019, Vuyolwethu founded Innovtel by first designing online courses on the theory of change, social venture engineering and monitoring and evaluation for startups.
Although African women have the highest entrepreneurial activity in the world, they are the last to be considered for investment opportunities.
Parallel to building her business, she’s heading the monitoring and evaluation division at ShEquity, an impact fund based in Mauritius, which works to help African female entrepreneurs access funding and support. Funds such as these are significant, she says, because although African women have the highest entrepreneurial activity in the world, they are the last to be considered for investment opportunities.
— ShEquity (@ShEquityAfrica) July 31, 2021
Her partnership with ShEquity is a lesson on building relationships and leveraging social media to position yourself for opportunities. “I’ve actually never met the founder of the fund,” she admits laughing. “She’s currently based in Zurich but we found each other and created an opportunity to work together through how I’ve positioned myself on social media and because I’m constantly sharing my work.” The self-proclaimed extrovert is also a sought-after speaker and corporate moderator and worked as the official host for this year’s Africa Tech Week, the Standard Bank Top Women Awards and Digify Africa’s Youth Skills Summit.
People won’t know how good you are at what you do unless you tell them.
Vuyo recently published an article on her website exploring how women miss the opportunity to get much-deserved credit by shying away from speaking about their work. “As African women we’re taught to put humility first and wait for other people to validate us but that doesn’t serve you in the workplace,” she says. “People won’t know how good you are at what you do unless you tell them.”
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With thanks to Africa No Filter who made this series possible.