In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Saturday on Friday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Conference in Durban, Matheba, who has about 2 million followers on Twitter and Instagram and who sets fashion rather than follows trends, urged young women to control their future.
“I can’t judge anyone, but a blesser will always want something in return. Set your own legacy, there is no debt in that. Make your own rules. Put in the work,” she said.
Matheba said the recent #FeesMustFall student protests had motivated her to take action in making a difference.
Describing young African women as “passionate and fierce in that they can do whatever their male counterparts can do”, she started the Bonang Matheba Foundation after the protests and assisted 10 with tertiary education this year.
On Friday, she challenged leaders, celebrities and other influence-shapers to make a practical difference, highlighting that 51 million African girls were not in school.
“There is a level or urgency out there when it comes to education, but is anything being done? If you have a platform to change somebody’s life, use it. It has a trickle effect, our young women will become mothers and will educate their sons and families. Education has a wonderful domino effect,” she said.
Harnessing digital innovation was a key talking point at WEF, which Matheba highlighted is the most powerful tool to engage with youth.
“You have to know how to speak to them online. We live in a digital era and we need to customise the message."
For her followers, Matheba warned that success takes time.
“Overnight success does not exist. We live in an era of instant gratification, but success needs time and the true value of hard work. You need patience and perseverance."
She was in Durban to moderate the WEF panel discussion on harnessing the continent’s booming youth population through urgent and strategic investment. Matheba attended as an ambassador for One Campaign, a global advocacy organisation to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases, particularly in Africa.
At the opening of the panel discussion, One Campaign director, Nachilala Nkombo, said: “It is not business as usual. There are pockets of unrest on the continent which may increase. How to end extreme poverty in Africa is by employing young women.”
The WEF panel discussion moderated by Matheba highlighted the mismatch between current education curricula and skills sought by industry.
The potential for developing agri-business and providing food for Africa instead of relying on imports was also discussed, as was unrest on the continent and the urgent need for jobs for youth and women to maintain stability in the region.