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Youth-owned business saving lives in KZN

Written by Thandeka Ngobese
When S’thembiso Ngubo and Nelly Ngcobo were working together at an emergency medical service company in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) they were inspired to open their own company. 

S’thembiso Ngubo (centre left) and Nelly Ngcobo (centre right) with two of their employees Simo Sabelo and Sebenzile Mbatha.Ngubo and Ngcobo are now co-owners of Afromed Medical Services, a Durban based company that offers ambulance services to people of KZN. The company also obtained a contract for servicing GEMS clients in need of ambulances throughout the province.

Ngubo said when they started the company they did not have an ambulance of their own and had to hire ambulances from other companies.

“We approached private companies for assistance but they didn’t understand the nature of our business,” he said.

 In 2013 the company received a R8 000 inventory for their business through the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and they used voucher for promotional materials and marketing.

The NYDA was established in 2008 to help address some of the problems facing South African youth, such as skills development and unemployment. 

They also approached Small Enterprises Development Agency (Seda), which helped them through the small business incubation programme. Seda is an agency of the South African Department of Trade and Industry and aims to develop, support and promote small businesses to help them grow and become sustainable.

“Having Seda as our business mentor helped us a lot. Seda guided us when we were entering the Lion’s Den Competition run by eThekwini Municipality to help small business. We won R40 000 at the competition,” said Ngubo.

The pair used the money to buy their first ambulance.

Ngubo said that in 2014 they entered uMyezane competition run by KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and won R120 000 which they used to buy their second ambulance as well as ambulance equipment.

“We never looked back since then.”

The company now owns seven ambulances, three emergency response cars and operates 24 hours, seven days a week.

“Our clientele has grown. We have 11 permanent paramedics and 24 casuals,” said Ngcobo.

The company also launched the Afromed Ambulance Service policy plan.  The monthly contribution towards this plan for a family of five members is R50.  It covers all family members and there is no waiting period. 

Wenzile Sishi ,who is an administrator at Afromed Medical Services, said she enjoys her work because it helps her to provide for her family.

“The experience I have gained here is going to help me a lot as I’m planning to open my own company one day,” she said.

Ngubo’s advice to young entrepreneurs is simple. “In life you have to dream and you have to be persistent, never give up. When starting a business do not be money driven but be ambitious. Your ambitions will add money to your pocket,” he said.