How do you change the world for the better? In South Africa, five separate projects are altering how the country and the wider world are trying to overcome certain issues through Red Bull Basement.

The project was set up for up-and-coming innovators to use their technical skills and creativity to solve any number of global challenges, and there were five stand-out acts at the Johannesburg event in 2018.

We take a look at the quintet aiming to make a better world…

Learn Base

At 22, Moketi Ratlabala is the sole member behind Learn Base, an electrical engineering company that develops electrical energy systems which protect a business or home’s electrical infrastructure. It also helps both manage their energy consumption.

He said: “It helps you reduce your energy. It is a device that you attach to main grids and also other multiple points. We import certain devices that pick up certain data and then we process it and analyse it and tell the end user what to do with it.”

His primary goal is to help bring down CO2 emissions and enable businesses in particular to reduce costs and have a better output from their infrastructures, with your phone providing all the information and documentation required.


Two self-taught programmers from Pretoria in Tissetso Mphuti and Skinny Kgwedi have come together to create a start-up company called Reacoda. They have developed an app called Moelmi Smartfarmer aimed at helping farmers in South Africa and further afield.

Farmers can remotely monitor and manage their hydroponics farms as well as monitoring water levels and nutrients, also using AI to identify plant diseases and report issues to a farmer’s smart phone.

“We want to give people the ability to solve their own problems,” explained the technology double act. “The vision is to bring the farmers into the urban areas. We want to give people the ability to solve their own problems. With technology we can change the world using my creations.”

All Round Tech

Nkulueko Tunzi was inspired by seeing blind people walking around at his university campus to come up with Bula Tesla, an electronic device that helps blind people navigate the urban streets.

It is effectively a Bluetooth earpiece and a small device fitted with sensory equipment and wheels attached to a blind person’s walking cane. The technology then detects objects in front of them, hence warning of any dangers.

Tunzi said: “Blind people mainly use their hearing and feeling so I wanted ways, using technology, to compliment what they are already using. I’ve added image processing, the aim for me is to build a device that will be able to help blind people to manouvre. If we enable blind people to do certain things, that would be priceless.”

Sisanda Tech

Mbangiso Mabasao is a self-taught game developer, who focuses on developing software using mobile phone games and augmented reality technology for educational purposes.

He explained: “It came after realising three out of five students find science a very difficult subject. I thought you could use a game to simplify everything.  Explaining goes together with demonstration, you can’t explain and not demonstrate. We are making the platform that every learner in the whole world will always come to and plug in and use it each and every time to learn.”

Objects seen at Red Bull Basement Hatch in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 13, 2019. Photo By Mpumelelo Macu for Red Bull Content Pool

With what he believes will be millions of jobs in STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – in 2020, there was evidence people were being put off by maths and science. His company changed that approach by making the learning fun and playful.

As for the end game in combination with graphic designer and 3D modeller Mojalefa Marumo, he is quite clear: “We want to see ourselves one of the best visual learning facilities in the whole world.”

Brain Hack Developers

Not everyone likes to shop and duo Wandile Magagule and Katlego Rambau have joined forces to create Smart Retail Bot, which uses GPS technology to make the shopping experience easier.

Magagula said the innovation was inspired by the “frustration of people in shops looking for their items”

Participant seen at the Red Bull Basement Hatch in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 13, 2019. Photo By Mpumelelo Macu for Red Bull Content Pool

He added: “It helps you to know how much you’re going to spend even before you get to the shop. It helps you to navigate along the aisles and where to get your product.

“You can even use the local language of your choice to communicate with the system whatever you’re buying and where to find your items. My vision is to see our product as a solution in most retail shops.”