Rehema Isa, 46, is an entrepreneur, strategist, learning and development practitioner and storyteller. She has a significant portfolio of work in the areas of women entrepreneurship development, leadership learning facilitation and translating strategies into stories. She has worked with leading local and international organisations to build the business knowledge and market access for women entrepreneurs in Africa.
Rehema is co-founder of Oya Solutions, a specialist strategy and leadership development firm that helps clients find better and more innovative ways to unlock growth. Launched during the Covid-19 pandemic, Oya Foods develops vegetable-based products.
Rehema is increasing the range of products and scaling up operations to service a growing market. Oya Foods is now part of a Gauteng Economic Development Incubator. Womanomics was launched in 2019 and has secured multi-stakeholder partnerships. It connects African women to commercial insights, capacity building and ecosystems that facilitate greater participation in trade.
Her proudest achievement is being the organiser of TEDxLytteltonWomen, which began in 2015 and profiles African women and shares their ideas with the world. Rehema organised, self-funded and hosted her first TEDxLytteltonWomen event, and had more than a million online views of the first 10 talks aired. She holds an MBA and has won numerous awards, including being Entrepreneur of the Year and overall winner in Women of Stature 2022.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Your voice is your invoice. Your ideas and insights are valuable. Your contribution to existing bodies of knowledge is founded on your lived experiences, personal lens and outlook. That is your differentiator. Use your voice to make your value visible. Translate your unique value proposition into a commercial transaction.
Our theme this year is Accelerating Equality & Empowerment in Women. How do you empower yourself and women around you?
Lebo Biko (my business partner) and I have been particular about the businesses we have formed, their value proposition and what they solve for. Oya Solutions formed in 2010 had a bold goal of facilitating connections between African women on the continent to enable collaboration and participation in Africa’s growth story. Oya solutions is the base camp for thought leadership, strategy consulting and strategic marketing, with priority clients being growth oriented, women owned and managed organisations and leadership teams. Notably in 2023 I am an orchestrator on an Executive Leadership Programme run by FASSET, IWFSA South Africa and Duke Corporate Education with over 300 women leaders as participants.
If you could change or achieve one thing for South Africa today, what would it be?
I would keep doing my part, and sharing the story of doing. I think we need a healthy dose of the reality of doing and not just the PR of what has been achieved. I believe if we normalise the journey it would make the work and daily grind that comes with the ups and downs more relatable, less daunting. I don’t believe we have the whole solution. Lebo and I are clear that what we offer is not an ‘OR’ but an ‘AND’. If we add up all the amazing things people are doing out there, when it works and when it doesn’t. I think we should share stories of what is being done. Track records, battle scars, wins and dreams. Imagine if you took just one street in this country and shared stories of what people are doing on that street to make a difference, as they have quantified it. Imagine if towns, cities, and the nation had a view of those little things? Little things can become big things.