For thousands of South African university students, financial challenges become hard choices when they need to buy expensive textbooks. Sacrifices, including food, must be made to get the specialised textbooks needed to continue studying.
For a student from Molteno in the Stormberg mountains, this widespread problem presented an opportunity that led her directly to the 2022 MTN SA Women in Digital Business Challenge finals.
Ncubeko Noyila‘s hometown in the Eastern Cape is famous for the rusks produced there. Now, it is also known as the place where a young woman with an aptitude for IT has made life easier for a generation of university students.
Already a serial entrepreneur testing business opportunities available in Molteno, her move to the University of the Free State led to Noyila’s business breakthrough – an app named Rebooked which addresses a glaring need in an academic environment where most people can’t afford new books.
In her first year at university, Noyila’s early work on the Rebooked app was recognised and led to the offer of a place in an MTN mentorship programme and her place a year later in the MTN SA Women in Digital Business Challenge.
“It took a year for Rebooked to be structured and another year to be developed. Fortunately, I had access to the MTN mentorship programme for guidance on the legal and business issues that needed attention before I could launch the app”, says Noyila.
The Rebooked app connects sellers and buyers of second-hand books – offering an alternative to buying new academic books or prescribed textbooks at retail prices through limited numbers of dealers.
“Many of us couldn’t buy the books we needed because textbooks could cost well-over R1000 ($56.82) so we had to borrow and share books or spend countless hours at the library to read them. This obviously made studying and passing subjects difficult.”
While Rebooked was previously only active at certain times during the year because it focused solely on university books, the app has now developed to cater to all lovers of books – from members of book clubs to those just looking for something good to read.
The app is opening opportunities for anything concerning books, says Noyila.
“I see Rebooked becoming a place where even aspiring authors can self-publish and market their e-books and traditional paperbacks, or for a space for hosting live and virtual seminars for future writers and established authors to talk about their work and inspire others”.
To be added in 2023 is a feature that will enable people to create books on the site.
“The changes are so exciting, they’ve led to me having to reassess many of the features, including the payment mechanism. The initial idea was to offer students a chance to connect with other students and advertise venues where they could meet to do transactions for textbooks, but the safety considerations of this approach has meant building safe online payment mechanisms into the app”.
The revamped Rebooked app goes live this month.
“I will be using my R100,000 ($5681.51) prize money to establish the Rebooked brand by travelling to major campuses to market its features and benefits and launch campaigns and projects. The balance will be used to improve the app and incorporate other features that will make it attractive to even more users. Plans for a second app are also on the way,” concludes Noyila.
“Ncubeko Noyila is proof that your location, even if it is a remote rural area, is no barrier to building a future in IT,” says Angie Maloka, Senior Manager: Education & Community Programmes at MTN SA Foundation.
“Her inquiring mind and the fact that she had to learn how to code before working on Rebooked is testimony to her determination to succeed. This has been something apparent in each of our ten winning women. “
“It is gratifying that while she has carved a niche in the IT world, she has also helped thousands of other people to study towards their academic qualifications.”
The MTN Women in Digital Business Challenge forms part of the MTN Group’s commitment to developing ICT SMEs on the continent. It aims to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset by providing R1 million to 10 SMME candidates for working capital needs, business development, tangible assets, mentorship, and advancing technology/software.
“Our ten finalists, and recipients of R100 000 each, are examples of what can be achieved by women in a competitive industry. We look forward to hearing more about them as they help change the operating face of the business in South Africa,” concludes Maloka.
By Staff Writer.