Every year, the Mail & Guardian (M&G) profiles outstanding young people under 35 who have made their mark in society and are future leaders to look out for – and a fair few that got the nod are UP alumni, 21 to be precise. The dinner was a platform for Prof Kupe to meet these Young South Africans and for the UP community to network.
“We are extremely proud of you,” Prof Kupe told attendees at the dinner, which was hosted at UP’s Gordon Institute of Business Science and included honourees who had made it onto the list in previous years. “I am particularly proud of the positive and significant contribution you are making to South Africa.”
He said South Africa needs leadership with foresight and wisdom. “You are the leaders who will lead the continent into the future.” Prof Kupe also provided an overview of UP in 2019, explaining that 37% of academic staff have PhDs, and that the university produces 28% of all engineers in South Africa as well the largest amount of research, particularly of the sort that changes lives.
“The Mail & Guardian Young South Africans recognition programme has been running for the past 14 years,” said Samantha Castle, UP’s Senior Alumni Relations Manager. “UP has identified 65 of its alumni and alumni associates who have been included on this prestigious list. This year there were 21 honourees.”
She said the university is aiming to host a dinner every year to celebrate the latest honourees. “In doing so, our hope is to expand our network of remarkable leaders and change-makers in South Africa. We would like to turn this powerful network into a UP Mail & Guardian Alumni Club.” This club could host networking events, and members could return as guest speakers to inspire UP students or serve as mentors on the online UP Alumni Connect platform, as well as be ambassadors for the university.
Husband-and-wife team Papa and Hetty Boachie-Yiadom, who appeared in the Business and Entrepreneurship category, attended the dinner and were resplendent in their matching African-print outfits.
They met each other as students in 2007 while Papa was studying Actuarial Science and Hetty Political Science. They married in 2010. “While on honeymoon, we decided to start a business,” recalled Papa. This led to the birth of P&H Boutique, initially an online store that sells modern African clothing. At first they operated from their spare bedroom, but demand for their products soared and they now have stores in malls including Cresta, Southgate and Westgate; they also export wholesale to Europe and Australia. Soon they will employ about 30 people.
Papa said that being on the list “is a great privilege”. “It is a validation of the work we do,” added Hetty. As for UP: “The best thing UP gave to me was my husband,” she said. “I am eternally grateful for this and carry my education into all spheres of life”.
Also in attendance was alumnus Charles Maphanga, who has a Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology and an honours degree in Medical Virology. He was recognised in the Health category. As a researcher in the field of biophotonics at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s National Laser Centre in Pretoria, his work focuses on the development of point-of-care diagnostic devices (like cellphones) that can be used to improve the diagnosis, treatment initiation and monitoring of diseases, as opposed to drawing blood from a patient. His focus is on HIV and TB diagnostic devices. “It feels good to be recognised for my work,” he said.
His advice to students is to “continue moving in your lane – don’t take a short left or a short right”. He added: “UP is not about how smart you are… You need to put in the hard work and not isolate yourself. Have a study partner.”
Dr Taryn Bond-Barnard who was nominated in the Education category, is a senior lecturer and researcher at the Graduate School of Technology Management, and has a PhD in Engineering from UP. She teaches IT and services project management, as well as project management to engineers who are pursuing a master’s degree in the subject or an honours degree in engineering and technology management. She also teaches several short project management-related courses through [email protected]
In 2018, the International Project Management Association presented her with the Global Young Researcher of the Year Award, which recognised the exceptional research she has conducted in her field and her PhD research into project communication, trust, collaboration and success. “The M&G nomination brought me more attention than the international award I won,” she said with a laugh. She has had the privilege of working with Prof Herman Steyn who supervised her master’s and PhD. “I’ve learnt from the best and this has made me much more confident in teaching at a postgraduate level,” she said. “I can attest to the fact that the University of Pretoria will provide you with everything you need to make a success of your career, both locally and internationally.”
The other 2019 honourees who were at the event were:
- Nic Klopper (Business and Entrepreneurship)
- Dr Palesa Monyake (Health)
- Dr Cyan Brown (Health)
- Ayanda Magida (Education)
- Keith Katyora (Science and Technology)
- Dr Ntombenhle Gama (Science and Technology)
- Gundo Nevhutanda (Justice and Law)