Ecopreneur, Thato Kgatlhanye is Making Solar-Powered Plastic School Bags for Kids in South Africa

For most students who live in the suburbs of South Africa, when the final school bell rings each afternoon, it doesn’t just signal the end of another day of learning, but it also marks the beginning of an arduous trek along busy and dangerous roads to get back home in time to complete their homework before sunset.

Thato Kgatlhanye has been using her company, Rethaka Trading which was founded in 2013, a for profit social enterprise that specializes in green innovative solutions for social development, to make Repurposed School Bags from up-cycled plastic bags, integrating solar technology that charges during the day and transforms into light for school kids to study after dark.

The Repurposed school bag is a practical and sustainable solution to a major problem for many kids living in rural and non-electrified parts of South Africa. Also, these bags are not only environmentally-friendly, but they provide the much needed renewable light resource for these young students who need to study after dark at home, where electricity simply doesn’t exist.

The integration of reflective light material in the bags also provides visibility for these young students on the often dangerous roads as they walk many kilometers each day just to attend school.

Kgatlhanye is not only in business for the profit but for the ethical standpoint. She expressed to Forbes, “I am an entrepreneur like my father, but I also have a social conscience and that can be attributed to my mother. I’m not just in business for profit; I’m in business to do good”

Kgatlhanye continues to make impact in the world and has been recognized on numerous platforms, the most recent being listed on the highly acclaimed Forbes 30 under 30 list, the International Elle Impact Award and in 2016, she became the youngest woman at age 23 to appear on the cover of Forbes Women Africa.

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