Olwethu Mhlana


What does your company do?

AfriSTEM is a pioneering EdTech startup that builds social impact in STEM education. AfriSTEM provides interactive and engaging educational initiatives encompassing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Our programs include workshops, school academies, extramural classes, online courses, teacher training, and tools that enhance the STEM learning experience. AfriSTEM curriculum and tools are all designed to empower young learners and educators with the skills and knowledge required to thrive in the modern technological landscape. We empower young learners and educators with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the contemporary technological landscape. We offer beginner to advanced coding courses teaching coding languages such as Python, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and drag-and-drop applications such as Scratch. We design courses that upskill educators in underserved communities with basic digital literacy skills. Our courses all come with coding study guides and assessment tools that are not standardised considering inclusivity and accessibility.

What is your biggest success?

Having been a small startup with a sole founder, it has been an honour and success to be featured in Forbes magazine highlighting the impact of STEM education and the founders views on the South African technological landscape. It has also been a success to have been awarded Africa's 50 Most Inspiring Women in Technology.

What has been your biggest hurdle?

How to align the dual goal of achieving impact and obtaining financial returns. As we operate predominately in underserved communities, gaining a deep understanding of the local education landscape, including the needs, preferences, and challenges faced by students, educators, schools, and educational institutions in South Africa. South Africa has significant socioeconomic disparities, with disparities in income, access to education, and digital literacy levels. Understanding these socioeconomic factors and adapting business models, pricing strategies, and product offerings to accommodate different socioeconomic groups is critical for ensuring inclusivity and accessibility, and that is a lesson we are still navigating.