Thato Kgatlhanye

Born: 1992

Birth Place: South Africa

Known for: Ethical Inventor

Kgatlhanye is an inventor and ethical businesswoman.

In 2015, she was a finalist in the Cartier Women’s Initiative.

Each bag she makes uses twenty recycled plastic shopping bags.

I am an entrepreneur like my father, but I also have a social conscience and that can be attributed to my mother. I’m not just in business for profit; I’m in business to do good.

Thato Kgatlhanye

Life story


Inspired by light


Thato Kgatlhanye founded her own company, Rethaka, at age eighteen, along with her friend Rea Ngwane. Their company uses recycled plastic shopping bags to make solar-powered school bags. The bags can also be used as a light source at night. They have reflective material on them, which allows the people wearing them to be more visible in the dark.


Kgatlhayne had to study by candlelight when she was at school. She wanted to make something to help children so they could see better when they studied. She didn’t plan to become a businesswoman, but she always wanted to do something to help others in a big way.


Ethical mission


Kgatlhanye wanted her business to be ethical. She started her company in 2013, and its mission was to help improve access to education for poor children. Now, her company has twenty employees, and it supplies items to companies like Standard Bank, Red Bull, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Unilever. She sends her school bags to Namibia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. She plans to sell in 24 more African nations.


Kgatlhanye is known around the world for her work as a Black female inventor, and for the way that her invention has helped to improve the lives of lots of young children.

What did Kgatlhanye invent? What did Kgatlhanye want her business to be? How old was Kgatlhanye when she started her business?

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