Life from Above
Founder and CEO of ZwideAzi Engineering Solutions (Pty) Ltd, Yolanda Nxumalo, is harnessing the power of remote aircraft technology to ensure healthy communities in informal and rural areas
ZwideAzi Engineering Solutions (Pty) Ltd (soon to be renamed raAzi) was founded just a year ago by Yolanda Nxumalo while she was studying towards a BSc in Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Cape Town. With her academic success in tow, she looked to entrepreneurship as her next pursuit, with ZwideAzi initially registered as a manufacturing company using 3D technology.
Working with drones
Currently based in Stellenbosch, ZwideAzi focusses on last-mile delivery of medicine for patients in hard-to-reach communities in South Africa with the intention of improving medical adherence in these areas.
She explains: “The idea is to use small and powerful drones that are capable of traversing challenging distances to ensure that people who live in less hospitable areas are still able to access modern medicine in good time and via a cost-effective solution.”
Stellenbosch-based, ZwideAzi Engineering Solutions (Pty) Ltd (soon to be renamed raAzi), focusses on last-mile delivery of medicine for patients in hard-to-reach communities in South Africa.
Yolanda first had the idea while she was finishing her degree, after which her sister – who had graduated from Stellenbosch University – told her about LaunchLab. Intrigued, she applied in early 2020 for the organisation’s FemTech ‘Spark Your Startup’ programme and was accepted.
“It was here that I was able to find and connect with other female entrepreneurs in the FemTech programme, namely Vuthlarhi Shirndiza [Yolanda’s soon-to-be business partner], and received guidance from the LaunchLab team of advisors, including Prof. Thomas Jones and Dr. William Mapham, who helped me understand where in the economic supply chain I wanted to position my company,” says Yolanda.
Yet, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and mass disruption that followed, Yolanda had to put a temporary pause on her proposal to deliver medicine and has instead turned her attention to flattening the curve using drone technology. Her new idea is to provide densely populated areas at high risk of infection with a remote system for monitoring and controlling the spread of communicable diseases, specifically COVID-19.
“With businesses everywhere being forced to close, I started looking around for new opportunities, which led me to the Fem-in-Tech programme at the Small Enterprise Development Agency. While there, I was scouted by the Urban Links Africa initiative which connected me with two United Kingdom-based tech companies, Liquidstar and Karakoram,” says Yolanda.
Raazi is currently piloting its drone services from Canzibe Hospital in the Eastern Cape.
She continues: “We’ve been in discussion for the past few weeks and have formed a partnership to deliver long range, drone-based temperature checks in informal settlements around South Africa. It hasn’t been launched just yet, but the plan is to use our drones to survey temperature levels in large areas, and then to collate this data to better predict emerging hotspots ahead of a widespread outbreak.”
Building her dream with others
Before starting ZwideAzi, Yolanda was mulling over the idea of doing her Masters. However, a desire to leave her comfort zone and prove herself in the world of business led her to launch a company instead.
“Being an entrepreneur means going against the grain and this can be an uncomfortable experience. You’ve got to put all your effort into your business with the high prospect of failure looming close behind, and people often don’t understand why you would do that to yourself,” explains Yolanda.
“But this shouldn’t deter you; you’re not alone!” she reassures. “The key to survival is not to safeguard your dreams, but to build them by working with other people who can help you navigate this stressful journey. The foundations and growth of my company are due to the Stellenbosch community. If it weren’t for the support I received at Launchlab and from my advisors, I wouldn’t’ be where I am today.”
Yolanda concludes: “I’ve been very fortunate in that a lot of opportunities have come my way. This has been great for the growth of the company, but it has at times been weird, overwhelming and confusing. However, having a network of advisors and mentors has been invaluable in helping me focus my energy and chase the opportunities that are best for me and my business.”
To find out more about Yolanda and her businesses, go to www.raazi.co.za.