Durban entrepreneur Sthembiso Ngubo runs a successful private ambulance service which he started after raising money to buy his first ambulance, selling first-aid kits on the trains between Verulam and Durban.
Durban entrepreneur Sthembiso Ngubo runs a successful private ambulance service which he started after raising money to buy his first ambulance, selling first-aid kits on the trains between Verulam and Durban.
Durban - Social entrepreneur Sthembiso Ngubo rose from tending gardens to saving lives after his former employer pushed him to dream big, leading to him opening his own successful private ambulance service.

Ngubo, 39, founder of Afromed Medical Services, a firm he started with colleague Nelisiwe Ngcobo in 2012, has in just six years grown the business to employ dozens of staff including paramedics, a doctor and a nursing sister.

And he has just been recognised for his business’s contribution to economic growth and employment as one of the top 20 businesses that have participated in the Durban Business Fair over the years, as part of the event’s 20th birthday celebration.

Afromed, which has its head office in Avoca and a base in Ntuzuma, has a fleet of 11 ambulances, six rapid-response support vehicles and employs between 36 to 46 staff who respond to medical emergencies and service special events.

Lamontville Golden Arrows and Amazulu Football Club are among its special events clients.

Ngubo grew up in KwaMaphumulo in Kranskop but after he completed his matric his family could not afford to send him to study further and he resigned himself to working as a gardener in Phoenix.

However, his employer, state paramedic Vicky Januk, saw his potential and had other ideas.

“I worked for (Januk) for close to two years and then he advised me to do a paramedics course. I had no idea what a paramedic was but I just fell in love with his job and I asked: ‘How do I go about being a paramedic?’” Ngubo said.

“I took the money I earned as a gardener and went to study para medics at the SA Red Cross.”

Januk eventually quit his job to open his own private ambulance service, Accimed Response. Ngubo said Januk then helped him to get his driver’s licence and he joined the business.

“I was fortunate to have someone who believed in me. I wouldn’t have done it if there was no push behind me,” Ngubo said. He went on to study a basic ambulance course and obtained a certificate in intermediate life support from Maritzburg Emergency College. He worked for Accimed for 16 years before starting his own business.

“In 2012 I decided to start my own company because I had enough experience and because the community I live in, Ntuzuma, was suffering because of hijackings and ambulances struggled to come to the area,” Ngubo said.

Initially he charged a minimal R50 fee for his service because it was all local people could afford.

“It wasn’t for the money, it was to assist the people,” Ngubo said.

Ngubo’s vision now is to grow the business further afield.

The Mercury