Africa's Future
Photo Credit: Musa Mokoena and Verena Wagner

To mark Africa Month this May, two strong female South African leaders working in education are sharing their thoughts on how bright Africa’s future can be when equipped with future-forward education:


Mpumalanga, South Africa (21 May 2024) — Trend-spotters may have Africa’s future and megatrends mapped out for the coming decades, but some forward-looking South Africans in the education space are already streets ahead in imagining and shaping this future – placing digital skills, creativity and sustainable living at the forefront of their scenario planning.

Rapid urbanisation, climate change, growing digital capacity and entrepreneurial innovation all play a role in contributing to Africa’s Youth Boom; a concept that’s hastening the way we need to think about education on our continent.

To mark Africa Month this May, two strong female South African leaders working in the education arena to be “the change they want to see” for their children are sharing their thoughts on how bright Africa’s future can be when equipped with future-forward education.

Through their work at Good Work Foundation (GWF), a rural education non-profit with six digital learning campuses in Mpumalanga and the Free State, Verena Wagner and Musa Mokoena are actively involved in helping the continent’s youth to prosper.

Here’s what they say about how we can future-proof South Africa for the benefit of generations to come!

Musa Mokoena: Side Hustles and Digital Skills are the Way to go

“GWF, being in the digital learning space, is preparing young Africans for the future by giving them the kind of education that will inspire them and equip them for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They, in turn, will prepare their own children with the necessary digital skills, so it’s a generational investment in our future population,” says Musa Mokoena, GWF’s head of campus operations and a mother of two.

But, she adds, even as a digital future beckons, there will still be room for innovative, creative, out-of-the-box thinking

“Our education model opens doors for young people going into the business arena, because they are gaining the confidence to become entrepreneurs in their own right, creating jobs for themselves and for others.”

While GWF has a robust network of partners that place many of its graduates in jobs, the organisation also helps “ignite that spark” of entrepreneurship in those exploring new ventures or side hustles.

“In fact, this month one of our alumni assisted in starting up a local Bushbuckridge community radio station, BlueHazy FM. And there are many others who have started businesses – one of our staff members runs a small restaurant, selling kotas and other traditional meals. So we light a fire in aspiring entrepreneurs that says, ‘What else can I do to feed my family and grow personally?’”

Musa believes that despite the projected trend towards urbanisation, the future is bright for rural economies – especially those that create their own opportunities. To this end, GWF has formed an on-campus social enterprise, VillageUp, in a bid to become self-sustaining. It offers a business process outsourcing service to corporates, creating jobs for the Mpumalanga community while ploughing the profits back into education.

“When I came to work here [in rural Mpumalanga], I saw first-hand how you don’t need to be from Joburg to speak good English; you don’t need to have gone to a private or multiracial school to advance yourself,” this self-confessed “city girl” relates. 

This is because GWF’s Bridging Year Academy helps polish rural school-leavers’ English skills so they can enter the workplace knowing the universal language of business, she says.

“We are contributing to social cohesion by encouraging young people to stay in rural areas and use their skills to help develop their communities. We want to change rural people’s mindsets so that they are comfortable in their own spaces.”

Verena Wagner: Going Back to the Land to Power up Rural Economies

GWF senior development manager Verena Wagner is brimming with new ideas after becoming acquainted with Project Biome. This pan-African movement promotes a “new way of living” that prioritises green technology, rewilding and regenerative agriculture, grounded in indigenous wisdom.

“Our human connections have been largely lost and our community structures eroded, and we need to draw back on that ancient wisdom,” she notes. “We need to reimagine a future world premised on a healthy planet and healthy people. Africans can generate real change in the world because of our links to spiritualism and to the land.”

Future-facing in its outlook, GWF has already made strides in empowering and strengthening rural communities. However, Verena says as Africans, we need to do more to harness our potential to combat challenges “and create the change that we want to see”.

She says that re-examining our agricultural practices will help shape a sustainable future with food security at its core. “Regenerative agriculture is a trend that is gaining momentum. It’s about connecting people back into growing their own food and returning to their natural rhythms. It’s a community-based approach that’s about taking control of your health and your future.”

She believes GWF is perfectly positioned to pioneer and integrate such notions into its education curricula – “becoming the custodian of, and safeguarding, our rural spaces for the benefit of our heritage and culture, while investing in communities and building capacity”. This is especially urgent in the Bushbuckridge area, where it is estimated that half of the population is younger than 18 and less than 20% of young adults are employed.

Both women are optimistic about Africa’s future, if we use a combination of ancient wisdom and enterprising thinking to solve our own challenges. Musa believes parents should take the lead in nurturing young minds – such as, in her case, cultivating her son’s love of soccer and her daughter’s passion for dancing.

“We should invest in teaching our children how to come out of their comfort zones and identify their talents and skills – because that is what will push them to succeed later in life, as African children.”

Also a mother of two, like her colleague Mokoena, Wagner would love to see the education curriculum evolve to prioritise more experiential, child-led and life skills-based learning – “so, teaching the skill of learning rather than just providing an education as such”.

Sources: Supplied
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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