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Thandolwenkosi Mthembu - Transforming informal settlements

Thandolwenkosi Mthembu lives by the motto, "If you do what you are passionate about then you won't feel that you are working."

Mthembu who is from Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal, is the founder of Azaniya Urban Solutions (Pty) Ltd and is an architectural urban strategist.

She has been identified as a young leader in research and practice in various disciplines in the built environment. Mthembu was also featured in the Mail and Guardian as one of the Top 200 Young South Africans in 2017 for her contribution to built environment education and activism.

Mthembu studied architecture at the University of Cape Town on a scholarship from the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. While there Mthembu fell pregnant with her son, so to be closer to her family, she completed her degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Mthembu was then awarded a bursary by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research to pursue her Postgraduate Diploma in Urban Planning at the University of Witwatersrand in 2015.

Following which, in 2016, Mthembu was appointed as a lecturer at the Durban University of Technology in the Architecture Department.

In 2017, she completed her Master of Science in Urban Planning for Developing Countries and Transitional Regions at Oxford Brookes University on a prestigious Chevening Scholarship. "Attending Oxford was an amazing experience which I loved," commented Mthembu.

Her masters research was centred around the analysis of urban dynamics and their effect on informal traders in sub-Saharan African cities. She explained, "There is nothing informal about informal settlements in Africa. An important question to ask is how can we help the informal economy, which intends to work informally, to contribute to the formal economy."

As a specialist in urban strategy for developing countries, Mthembu is passionate about finding pioneering solutions for African cities that are inclusive and economically advantageous for the urban poor. She says, "We need to find African solutions and innovations to resolve African urban development challenges. I am committed to the transformation of the spaces in which Africans live. I want to do more than just design buildings.

I would like to transform the spaces that people live in to make them serve people. I want to change people's lives."

Consequently, Mthembu has built her academic career and work experience to establish her company as a consultancy firm offering services in architectural design, city planning and development strategy.

Her vision is for Azaniya Urban Solutions to be a pioneer in decolonised city planning and building in Africa as a whole. "We are a small player, but I have big ideas." Her goal is to create strong partnerships with big corporates in order to have a footprint in South Africa and in Africa.

Mthembu has a dream to speak more about what her company can offer in the development space so that her company's name is "on the lips of people".

In addition, her experiences of poverty and being a single mother have shaped her. Mthembu is a strong advocate for equal opportunities for women in male-dominated fields such as the built environment; and for transformation of all issues around racial equity and the empowerment of women. As such she seeks to expand her personal growth and invest in her community through the procurement of her own skills and others in her team.

In her free time, Mthembu is church leader with a special interest in youth ministry. She is also the founder and currently the chairperson of Power Generation, a youth organisation aimed at empowering the disadvantaged through education and skills upliftment.

Mthembu concluded by saying, "My family and my son Zibusiso are at the centre of everything
that I do."

Contact: Thandolwenkosi Mthembu
BAS (UKZN), PGDip (Wits), MSc
(Oxford Brookes) (RICS) (RTPI)

 Thandolwenkosi Mthembu Transforming informal settlements.JPG
 Thandolwenkosi Mthembu Transforming informal settlements.pdf

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