An Innovative Way to Address Unemployment
With record-high unemployment levels and expensive data costs creating a barrier to entry for many job seekers, South Africans need new ways to bring opportunities to people and to connect them with potential employers. A group of public-spirited researchers at REGENT Business School’s iLeadLab facility has developed a practical and innovative solution: the MAHALABox.
“Mahala” means “free” in isiZulu, and the MAHALABox lives up to its name. It provides free access to online resources such as recruitment agencies, job placements, and skills development tools like aptitude tests, CV templates, and downloadable books and videos. All that is needed is a smartphone – no data or internet access is required.
"The MAHALABox is our way of bringing important skills and resources to students, the unemployed, and the youth in local communities. We hope that, by providing such a solution, we can bring better opportunities to people who need them.”
Each MAHALABox contains a small computer. Employers, recruitment agencies, corporate entities, government departments, and tertiary education institutions can create content that is housed on the MAHALABox network. A MAHALABox generates its own wifi signal, and anyone with a smartphone can connect to it and interact with the network without needing data. With nearly 60 million smartphones in use in South Africa every day, it’s a practical and accessible way to connect people with information.
According to Sizwe Madikizela, one of the lead designers of the MAHALABox, another big plus is the fact that the MAHALABox uses sustainable solar energy. >>read more
“By making use of a solar panel and a rechargeable battery, the box can be powered indefinitely,” says Sizwe Madikizela. “The MAHALABox is produced at a relatively low cost, sustainable to use, and portable, making it a cost effective, feasible, and scalable solution,” he continued.
The MAHALABox is a new innovation and its creators see vast potential for it in the future. The MAHALABox can be adapted to specific locations – community centers, gyms, municipal gatherings, sports events, transport systems, educational centers, and so on – and can become an access point for communities, or even a storytelling device.
“Innovation has the power to free South Africans from the shackles of unemployment and bridge the ‘digital divide’. The MAHALABox is our way to contribute.”
Learn to Earn (www.learntoearn.org.za) is a skills development and job creation organization, primarily targeting unemployed people. Their aim is to eradicate unemployment and other legacies of injustice in South Africa. Since 1989, Learn to Earn has trained more than 13 583 unemployed people with market-related skills. Their skills development and training centers are based in the vibrant Khayelitsha and the seaside town of Hermanus.
For the past few years, R&Y has been involved with Learn to Earn students on the Graphic Design Bridging Course. Lecturers regularly host creative workshops for these talented young people, some of whom are awarded bursaries to study further at R&Y.
>>read more Many are able to use their skills immediately to start a small business or gain employment. The R&Y coffee shop is hosted by Learn to Earn barista students. The photographs below were taken of students who attended a photography lighting workshop hosted by R&Y photography lecturer, Nobukho Nqaba.