Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane, the entrepreneurs behind Repurpose Schoolbags
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Innovators behind solar-powered bags that turn into lights at night

Meet the duo of South African childhood friends who founded a social enterprise that uses plastic bags to make reflective school bags that turn into lights when the sun goes down, enabling children from homes without electricity to study after dark and be visible to traffic as they walk to and from school

Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane, the founders of the company that makes Repurpose Schoolbags, didn’t have any idea what they were going to when they registered their company. All they knew was that they wanted to make some kind of impact.

“Yes, it is a bit funny that you would register a business without a business idea,” Kgatlhanye told How We Made It In Africa. “But at the heart of it we actually wanted to do great things. And when the idea of the Repurpose Schoolbags came to us, we worked on it tirelessly.”

Repurpose Schoolbags. Photo: Roxy Klein
Repurpose Schoolbags. Photo: Roxy Klein
Repurpose Schoolbags. Photo: Roxy Klein
Repurpose Schoolbags. Photo: Roxy Klein

Repurpose Schoolbags is an environmentally-friendly innovation made from ‘upcycled’ plastic shopping bags. The bags have built-in solar technology that charges up during the day and transforms into a light at night. The initiative targets school children in underprivileged communities and looks at addressing a number of problems.

The bags allow pupils to study after dark in homes without electricity. The bags are also designed with reflective material, so that children are visible to traffic during their walk to and from school.

The production of Repurpose Schoolbags also involves the collection and recycling of plastic bags that typically litter the South African landscape.

Check out their website for more on how they bring light to young students’ lives.

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