Move over, disruption – SA’s great reimaginers have arrived!

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What are the reasons for innovation in any business niche? Perhaps the competition is growing, and a new breakout product or service is needed to shake things up a bit. Maybe consumer needs have changed over time, or, post-pandemic, your own strategic partners need to be marketed in a radically evolved manner to stay in the limelight. Here’s a look at several local brands, designers and thinkers that are leading the way in reimagining the future.

In the not so distant past, it was called disruption, a term describing radical change to an existing industry or market due to technological innovation. Think of the now near cliches – Uber and how it revolutionized the taxi industry; or Airbnb’s remake of hospitality. Today, a new term has come to light. It’s called reimagining and the brands doing it are emerging as champions in their niches because of the way in which they are co-creating new ideas and possibilities that contribute towards a more inclusive, sustainable and ethical future.

Notable among these is Yoco, an African technology company that builds business tools and financial services for entrepreneurs. ”We’re making payments accessible for small businesses – often for the first time,” the company states. “We’ve raised over $100M from some of the world’s leading technology investors, who have backed companies like Nubank, Square and Stone. Now they’re backing us to get South Africa – and eventually the entire continent – paid.”

Fred Roed.

Then there’s Fred Roed, the Heavy Chef CEO, who calls on the local entrepreneur ecosystem each year to nominate its finest start-ups. “Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we shine a light on our local start-up community,” he says. There are  groundbreaking innovations being implemented by South Africa’s top five most exciting start-ups of 2022, which include:, an AI-powered chatbot to help financial service providers acquire and retain customers; Kusini Water, which makes water purification and distribution systems from locally sourced materials to supply clean drinking water to needy communities; Livestock Wealth, which connects investors with farmers who require funding by using cattle as a form of investment; Valenture Institute, which offers its students a rich academic learning experience both online and on campus; and lastly, Walk Fresh, a boutique sneaker-cleaning start-up that trains young kids in townships to run such businesses themselves.

The newly relaunched Decorex Africa is also thinking outside of the box, while fitting squarely into the reimagined category. In fact, it has led the way in the exposition sector with a dynamically revised identity, guided by the principles of platform, play, authority and flexibility.

“With a nod to the brand’s legacy, which includes being at the forefront of décor, design and lifestyle over almost three decades, we employed the power of curation and combined high-value content with hard-working mechanics to transform ourselves from an exhibitor into a hybrid marketplace and growth accelerator,” enthuses curator Bielle Bellingham.

Landmark local designer Thabisa Mjo reimagined what weaving and seating could be by innovatively combining craft, design and technology to create the Hlabisa Bench. The piece was made in collaboration with furniture makers Houtlander and master weaver Beauty Ngxongo. Intensely creative, the Hlabisa Bench takes contemporary basketry to a level that never existed before.

The V&A Waterfront’s multiple-award-winning festive season campaign Joy from Africa to the World makes African creativity the hero over summer and does away with fake snow. The idea was first sparked “when the V&A Waterfront questioned its approach to the annual festive celebration with a view to challenge age-old narratives. Why not an African Christmas that benefits local communities?”

The popular leisure, hospitality, shopping and residential neighbourhood set about reimagining conventional festive season fare in order to showcase its African roots instead. The resulting campaign celebrates local design and sustainability in new ways and sets the V&A apart.

It’s clear that reimagination is a key survival tactic. There is no doubt that other brands will follow similar trajectories, as they reimagine themselves to remain relevant in the shifting post-pandemic world that has embraced collaboration and physical/digital hybridity as the new state of being.

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