Growing up in Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga, Thulani Khoza says people used to look down on him because his family was so poor. “People used to look at me like I was nothing, and because of that I told myself that one day I was going to be great, and people would respect me,” he says.
Instead of allowing people’s negativity to crush his self esteem, he used it to fuel his ambition. After finishing high school, Khoza went on to study computer science at Wits University.
After graduating he spent a few months at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) but left to work for cellphone giant MTN. He stayed less than a year, however, determined to become an entrepreneur.
“I wanted to change my story because when I was growing up people saw me as nothing. So I wanted to be in a space where I could be seen as this creative thinker. Not only that, when I looked at financial magazines all I used to see were white inventors; there were no black people. The only people that you could see were your Bill Gateses and your Mark Zuckerbergs,” he explains.
Khoza wanted to change this narrative and started toying with the idea of creating a smartphone in 2009.
“At the time my focus was on research, how I would assemble the phone and develop the software,” he says.
Despite not having funding, Khoza put a hundred percent into the project and his dream has become a reality. His creation, the T-Touch smartphone will be launched in August.
His company, Thules Telecoms, offers various services including fibre optic and other internet solutions. He employs 73 technicians and dreams of opening a factory in Mpumalanga.
“I want to go back and have a factory in Mpumalanga because I want to give back to the community. I also want to inspire others,” Khoza says, adding that he wants to show others that nothing is impossible and that anyone can achieve their dreams.