Ndabenhle: “I know of no better life purpose than of attempting the great and impossible. The fact that something seems impossible shouldn’t be a reason to not pursue it, that is exactly what makes pursuing it worth it. What would be courage if success was certain and there was no risk?”

Lwanda: The beginning of transformation is the increase of perception. As you see more, you can know more. And once you know better, you can achieve bigger.


Editor's Choice


AirStudent Travel

Ndabenhle Ntshangase and Lwanda Shabalala are the co-founders of the startup AirStudent Travel.

The idea was born in the dorm room when they were students and realised that the idea of people clubbing together to buy groceries in bulk to get better prices could be applied to air travel, according to the technology magazine, Gadget.

They are able to negotiate preferential deals with airlines. But AirStudent doesn’t only cater for students; it caters for New Age Travellers — people who use technology and social connectedness — and this includes everyone from business people to government groups looking for a better deal.

“Social media and peer pressure significantly influences their travel decisions. They tend to look for fast responses and instant gratification. They’re not brand loyal: they want the best price,” says Lwanda.

“To understand and service this market, we must lean heavily on technology, which will open up access to the tourism industry even more.”

Ndabenhle, who is AirStudent’s chief executive, and Lwanda, chief operations officer, work with a team of out-of-the-box thinkers and want to expand their services to include accommodation and car hire. They aim to give travellers affordable access to a range of travel solutions, including accommodation and car hire.

  • Ndabenhle Ntshangase: Bcom Economics, University of Cape Town
  • Lwanda Shabalala: BsocSci Law and Political Governance

  • Ingenious Faces graduate, 2018 
  • French South Africa Tech Labs graduate, 2020 
  • Allan Gray Orbis Foundation fellow, 2020 
  • E-Squared Investment investee, 2022 
  • Tourvest franchise agreement, 2023

Ndabenhle: During the 2015 drought, my dad created a feeding system for himself and all the other small-scale farmers whose cattle grazed on the communal land. Putting a limit on how long each farmers’ cattle could graze saved the land from deteriorating. This showed the power of initiative and community.

Lwanda: Operating a venture selling sweets and cool drinks in primary school that led to the principal calling in my mother in recognition of my entrepreneurial spirit. Having run a successful operation at that scale when I was so young helps me understand that age in business really is just a number and amazing things can be achieved if value is created regardless of who you are.

Harness the incredible power of personal initiative. Don’t wait for an opportunity to find you, but go out and create those opportunities. You have the capabilities to make a meaningful difference, so harness the initiative to do that. Everything you need is already in you, believe in yourself and watch how God will do the rest.

Ndabenhle: Coming into the world in 1998, when South Africa had the great hope of being the Rainbow Nation and had the eyes of the world on us, it weighs heavy on our hearts that the hope has died and we now fear for the future of this country. We wish to see the youth pick up where the previous generation left off and foster an environment that fills the people of this country with hope through tangible progress. We’d love to see a South Africa with improved infrastructure, improved access to opportunity and a strong sense of hope that we once had. In the next five years we hope to see a country that is loved by those that live in it. 

Lwanda: I would love for South Africa to be reflective of a society that believes in the power of self-agency as opposed to dependency, and celebrates a culture of real society builders, innovators, leaders and opportunity development. In this, I recognise the need for infrastructure (technological or otherwise) that will enable people to unleash their true potential and not broken infrastructure that promotes dependency and despondence.

View previous winners from 2018 to 2022

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