Young SA entrepreneurs discover innovation in Israel

  • Young
Recognising the need to foster a stronger culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa, Investec and the South Africa-Israel Forum (SAIF) partnered to take a first-ever delegation of 20 young entrepreneurs to Israel last month. Pictured at left are participants Siphiwe Zikalala and Akash Maharaj with Morris Kahn, 84, made aliyah from Benoni in 1956 & went on to found Aurec which produced the Yellow Pages & paved the way for Israeli software giant Amdocs, which now has more than 20,000 employees worldwide and customers in over 50 countries.
by DAN BROTMAN | Oct 22, 2014

The purpose of the pilot trip was to expose South African job creators under the age of 35 to best practices in business and entrepreneurship in arguably the world’s most entrepreneurial country, Israel.

As explained by Investec’s head of Corporate Social Investment, Setlogane Manchidi, “this was done with the intention of fostering the young entrepreneurs’ personal and business growth, since their success would facilitate much needed job creation in South Africa.”

elal-14-10-23 WEB-BANNER-ALONEInvestec opened online applications for only two weeks and received over 100 applications from young entrepreneurs throughout the country. Each applicant supplied information about his/her business and explained why he/she would benefit both professionally and personally from visiting Israel.

Candidates were shortlisted and invited to an interview at Investec, which was conducted by seasoned businesspeople and entrepreneurs.

Those selected were diverse both in terms of backgrounds and industries, and are directly responsible for the creation of over 300 jobs through their businesses. One such participant is Modjadji Ramphadi, 32, from Johannesburg, who grew up in rural Limpopo and was unable to finish her studies due to lack of funds. She eventually resigned from her job as a receptionist and became an entrepreneur, starting her own cleaning company and beauty care line, which together employ 132 rural women today.

Rethink Education

Doug Hoernle, 24, from Cape Town, is the founder of Rethink Education, which has developed chat-style online platforms to aid in the teaching of core maths and science. To date,

SAIF Palestinian EntrepreneursLEFT: Participants Siphiwe Zikalala and Akash Maharaj with Morris Kahn

Rethink Education has distributed maths and science content to over 400 000 South African high school learners, and Hoernle’s company recently received the 2014 African Content Award for the Best Mobile Education Content in Africa.

Other participants included South Africa’s first black female chocolatier, a young female farmer from the Free State and the owner of a chain of youth travel hostels.

One of the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to engage with two of Israel’s highest-profile former South African businesspeople, Morris Kahn and Maxine Fassberg.

Over 20,000 employees

Kahn, 84, made aliyah from Benoni in 1956 without a university degree or formal business training. He went on to found the Aurec Group, which produced the Yellow Pages directory that eventually paved the way for Israeli software giant Amdocs, which now has more than 20 000 employees worldwide and customers in over 50 countries.

The media-shy philanthropist volunteered to share his life story publically for the first time, as he believed that young “born-free” South African entrepreneurs would benefit most from hearing about what he has learned about entrepreneurship during his lifetime.


Kahn became visibly emotional when he explained how moving it was to see South African entrepreneurs of all colours sitting around the dinner table and collaborating on new business ideas.

“A gathering like this would have been illegal when I last lived in South Africa,” he said.

South African-born Intel Israel Vice-President Maxine Fassberg is arguably one of Israel’s highest ranking businesswomen, and was selected as one of 14 women to light torches at this year's Israel Independence Day ceremony.

Fassberg engaged with the group on issues ranging from women in business to affirmative action. When asked whether businesswomen needed to choose between having a family or career, she pulled out a photograph of her grandson and beamed: “Look at me, I have both! You should never have to choose between the two.”

Participant Phakiso Tsotetsi is the founder of The Hook Up Dinner, a growing initiative that gives start-ups from across the country a platform from which to connect, engage and contribute to each others’ success, while also providing entrepreneurs with a valuable interface to corporate South Africa.

Tsotetsi organised the launch of The Hook Up Dinner Israel on September 17, which was the first of its kind outside of Africa. He proclaimed at the launch event to over 100 South African, Israeli and Kenyan entrepreneurs: “Alcoholics go to Alcoholics Anonymous. Entrepreneurs go to the Hook Up Dinner.”

The Tel Aviv event was overbooked, and many business connections were made between South African, Israeli and Kenyan entrepreneurs, some of whom now plan on going into business together.



SA and Palestinian entrepreneurs engage in dialogue in Ramallah

The group also visited Ramallah, where they met Bashar Masri, a Palestinian-American entrepreneur and founder of Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city in the West Bank. They also met with young Palestinian entrepreneurs and discussed the challenges of doing business in the West Bank.

The group shared the South African experience of reconciliation with their Palestinian counterparts and explained that, although their country underwent a peaceful transition in 1994, there was still much work to be done until South Africa had truly become the “Rainbow Nation”.

The closing dinner with “Start Up Nation” author Saul Singer, gave the group time to reflect on the intense week they had experienced. “Although Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs have 100 solutions for a given problem at any point in time, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, their attitude is surprisingly defeatist.

“Both sides seem to not want a war, but equally, both have accepted the status quo,” remarked participant Mpumi Mazibuko.

“After personally experiencing the level of innovation and economic activity in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,” said Hoernle, “I am in a position to dream bigger than I previously thought possible. The experience has helped me grow my personal and business dreams and I have no doubt it will help take my business to a much higher level.”

Miles Kubheka, founder of Vuyo’s food chain, returned home with a very important message for his fellow entrepreneurs: “What I learned from the Israelis is resilience. Your circumstance does not define your outcome. I learned that you make the best of the cards you are dealt, then use it as a base to excel.”

SAIF logo
South African and Kenyan entrepreneurs at the Hook Up Dinner launch in Tel Aviv

SAIF HookUpDinner FULL
South African and Kenyan entrepreneurs with former South African and Intel Israel Vice-President Maxine Fassberg



  1. 2 Zandise Gwele 15 Jul
    I love Israel because it is not only the only democracy in the Middle East. I would like to have a first hand experience and explore Israel. I also support Israel's right of existence and to defend itself, both as a sovereign country and Jewish State.
    It's interesting to note that Israeli has more entrepreneurs than any other country in the world. What a progressive society in Israel.


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.




Follow us on