On his background

“I grew up in Soweto. I was a normal kid who just had a keen interest in the world of technology. The influence largely started when a friend of mine got a laptop in primary school. We were all so enthralled with it and as a result I would always visit him after school and at weekend so I could use it.”

Highly acclaimed Zibusiso Mkhwananzi, CEO of Avatar Digital, was awarded “Top ICT individual in Africa” for his contribution to business and society.

His greatest motivation

“My mom. Without a doubt she is one of the bravest and most daring people I know. Someone I should also mention is my uncle Mafika Mkwanazi. He always inspired me and challenged me to push boundaries and not be content with mediocrity or the status quo.”

His first business

“At a point in my schooling years I came to the realisation that, due to various reasons, there was little to no prospect for me to continue my studies, so I did the thing that I loved the most, which was providing technology services. I was fortunate that my peers and my community took this seriously and my first clients were my high school and library. It was a tough decision to start a business during an economic slump but I had been brought up to never back down from a challenge so I just ignored everyone and did it.” 

Behind the name ‘Avatar’

“Firstly, the name was inspired by the movie but, then again, the name is very relevant to the digital world because an avatar is a digital representation of self in the digital world.”

On what sets his business apart

“Think Avatar; imagine something out of the ordinary! That is what we are offering our clients. We are an integrated agency for the digital world. We use a multichannel approach to create awareness and digital channels to engage, convert and measure on our campaigns. In all we do we aim to provide something that is over and above the norm. What’s key to our clients is that we can show the value that we provide.”

The dark days

“Being young and a black person, I found it a challenge for people and businesses to take me seriously. Regardless of what you are offering, that issue alone can create a wall that will try and stop you from pursuing your passion. On the other hand, hardships are also things that motivate us in life; they groom us and make us strive for perfection. Did I mention that I am a hectic perfectionist?”

On the South African market

“The 21st century has gone digital. Our focus now is to establish ways to make it easier for our clients to reach their target market, to encourage involvement and interaction in both parties. Consumers now have the power in their hands on their mobile phones and social platforms. So to answer the question: Yes, South African businesses are slowly realising the need for digital marketing, but really slowly, judging by the money spent on digital. But then as we know, the term ‘digital marketing’ is going through some changes and the focus is more on content of digital platforms.

Inspiring young minds

“I run a Christian mentorship programme in Vosloorus where I shape many young entrepreneurial minds and challenge the ways in which we are taught in universities. I also serve God in my community every Sunday.”

Doing business in Africa

“Just be humble and willing to listen. We’ve been stereotyped as very arrogant and know-it-alls as South Africans. There is value is realising that we are not an island, we are part of a continent and we need to create meaningful and respectful connections with people we come into contact with. Internationally, we are not just a charity case for the world; Africa is a rising continent full of hope. In summary: trade not aid.”

Lessons learned in Africa

“There are just too many lessons but the big one that comes to mind is that a quality education is the essence of an exploding economy and business.”

Role of ICT in the development of Africa

With the stringent regulations around the telecoms industry, which drives the entire ICT space in a big way, we are still some time away. There is light at the end of the tunnel with the increasing projects providing bandwidth to the continent and the rise of Kenya in the innovative tech space. Now the problem is connectivity between the various African countries to distribute this bandwidth. The essence of ICT is that it empowers people with knowledge, which means that people are better informed and lead better quality lives through innovations in the tech space. Our big challenges are still big innovations by Africans for African problems. They are few and far between.”

Motivation behind ‘David’s League’

The story of David and Goliath motivated me to start this organisation. David is a great example of lateral thinking. He had a problem that could not be solved in any traditional way. He was a young boy with a young boy’s strength, and he faced an enemy who was mightily strong, an experienced fighting man, and one who held all the cards, so to speak, in psychological warfare. The man whom David faced had a long history of violence and intimidation, and David sensibly realised he could not beat this ogre by fighting him in the traditional manner. In essence, David’s League is a forum to find new ways of solving problems. God is the driving force to move people to a certain objective. When people believe in something greater than themselves, they get inspired. When they are inspired their dreams become a foreseeable reality.

The role of the National Economic and Education Trust (NEET) in furthering the cause of the under-privileged child

“We provide ICT bursaries to underprivileged students for them to study ICT-related studies at higher education facilities.”

 What some might not know…

I am a preacher.