Six incredible innovations created by South Africans

From life-saving surgeries to online ticketing services and fire-proofing shacks, South Africans are at the forefront of pioneering innovations that help not only locals, but people around the world.

 South Africa is an inspiring country with people who are innovative and resilient. From the energy that was poured into overcoming Apartheid to the impactful ideas that are shaping people’s lives in a positive way, our country has many leaders who care about development. When South Africa experiences this development, the benefit of this is that the quality of people’s lives improve. Citizens should continue to pursue their goals, show commitment to upskilling themselves, and continue applying their knowledge to the problem-solving opportunities that exist in our country and the world at large. Here is a list of six innovative ideas that South Africans created, highlighting what our citizens can achieve for the world’s benefit.


  1. The world’s first heart transplant was accomplished by a South African

 In 1967 Dr Christiaan Barnard made history, as he delivered the first heart transplant in the world. The benefit of this innovation was that it showed the healthcare industry that it was possible to save another person’s life through what was then an unprecedented surgery. Today millions of people around the world are able to receive this medical procedure because a South African dared to implement an innovative idea.

Dr. Christiaan Barnard on the cover of Time magazine. Image source available here.


  1. Creating bricks using urine

 In 2018, a group of engineering students at the University of Cape Town made headlines around the world after they came up with an innovative solution for recycling human waste. Instead of allowing urine to be flushed down toilets and into water streams, they found a hygienic way to collect it for an engineering project. After collecting enough urine, they used a process called “microbial carbonate precipitation” to turn it into bricks.


Bricks created out of urine by UCT students. Image source available here.


  1. Fire-proof shack material was created in South Africa

 Every year many South Africans who live in informal settlements die because of shack fires. These fires usually spread as well, affecting the entire community as people lose their homes, possessions, and loved ones. In order to counter this problem, a student named Gabriella Mogale created a new invention and this idea helped to insulate shacks from fires. Her invention involved mixing different substances together and using it to coat shacks to make them fireproof. At Eskom’s Expo for Young Scientists in 2018, her innovative ideas won her a gold medal. This shows that the best solutions to some of South Africa’s pressing problems won’t necessarily come from the government, but rather from the youth who dare to think differently.

Gabriella Mogale. Image source available here.


  1. Computerized ticket systems were developed first in South Africa

During the 1950s, people who lived in Benoni had to travel a considerable distance in order to receive tickets for shows in Johannesburg. Percy Tucker thought about a solution to this problem and eventually, he founded what is now known as “Computicket”. This innovative idea was the world’s first computerized system for purchasing tickets, another example of South Africans driving innovation.

Percy Tucker. Image source available here.


  1. Meet the “smart glove”

 Lucky Netshidzati grew up with deaf parents. This experience created communications challenges in his family, due to the language gap between them. What’s inspiring about Lucky’s story is that he used this challenge as an opportunity to create a new device, which has the potential to positively impact millions of people who are deaf. Lucky’s “Smart Glove” is worn by individuals and once they use it to create a hand gesture, it emits a sound to the other participants in the conversation. This South African youth is using technology to bridge the communications gap between families and friends. By using technology, he created a device that has the potential to bring communities closer together.


 Lucky Netshidzati. Image source available here


  1. PATCH strips; a new idea for plasters

PATCH Strips SA is a business that has won an award for its ability to achieve innovation. As a business, PATCH Strips SA focuses on “removing plastic from plasters.” It is the world’s first organic and biodegradable plaster. According to the Mail and Guardian, South Africa generates an annual 41 kg of plastic waste per capita, even though the global average is 29 kg a year. This innovation could contribute positively to the environment, by reducing how much plastic waste South Africans discard every year. What South Africans can learn from PATCH strips is that they have the potential to come up with ideas that save the environment, for the next generation’s benefit.

James Dutton, founder of PATCH Strips SA. Image source available here.


South Africa is a country facing numerous socio-economic challenges, including rampant unemployment and high levels of crime. In the midst of all these negative challenges that dominate the news cycle, it is possible to overlook the inspiring accomplishments that South Africa have given to the world. Even though we face these challenges as a society, our country has entrepreneurs, innovators, and civil society leaders who care about its development. Hopefully, the fact that you’ve read this article to the end will inspire to join them in innovating for progress.  



Cover photo of Lucky Netshidzati. Image source available here.



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