Thriving in South Africa: Nandise’s Journey

Preventing HIV Among Africa’s Growing Youth Population: Successes and Challenges
Nandise outside her internet café in South Africa. | Photo Credit: Tebogo Monama, South Africa, May 2023

Years ago, Nandise was an accounting student at Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Yet one major challenge consistently kept her from completing her assignments – the lack of internet access. Determined and resourceful, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Equipped with only one laptop and her budding business acumen, Nandise transformed her family home into an internet cafe for her community and began pursuing her dreams of expanding the business.

Through a chance encounter with a member of her church congregation in 2021, Nandise was introduced to a program that would change her life and set the stage for her entrepreneurship – DREAMS. Through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), CDC helps implement the DREAMS initiative, which stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe (DREAMS). This first of its kind program is designed for adolescent girls and young women and weaves together proven interventions—from clinical to educational—aimed at empowering girls to stay HIV-free. To do this, CDC and its implementing partners apply a suite of evidence-based interventions, including comprehensive economic strengthening, increased access to resources such as cash transfers and education subsidies, caregiver programs, and care following violence.

Eventually, with her brother’s help, Nandise moved her business out of her family home and secured a building where she officially launched her company, Internet by Nandz. It was through the CDC-supported DREAMS program and implementing partner TB HIV Care that Nandise was able to see her vision come to life. “TB HIV Care assisted me with seed funding and equipment such as a printer, paper, toner, and other things like tables and chairs for the people to sit while I’m busy with their requests,” Nandise said.

Internet by Nandz has taken off and now caters to students at the nearby Walter Sisulu University and the King Sabata Dalindyebo Technical Vocational Education and Training College.  High school students wanting to apply to universities also frequent the business. “My community members are my target market. They use the services to print their resumes, online applications, and other online services,” Nandise explains. Her company now has a dedicated market of customers, all thanks to her hard work, and people are noticing – including those who empowered her to chase her dream.

Today, Nandise’s business is thriving, and she is making plans to expand. “My plan is to open another branch near the gates of Walter Sisulu University. I also want to offer computer training classes.”

TB HIV Care’s DREAMS District Manager Luzoko Tosh agrees. “It has grown into a strong business that assists students who don’t have access to printers and the internet,” she says. “Today, Nandise is able to offer services at a low cost, and she is very ambitious.”

Nandise is one of the millions of girls CDC and PEPFAR support through DREAMS in 13 countries. The data show that new HIV diagnoses among adolescent girls and young women have declined in all geographic areas implementing DREAMS – 96 percent of which have had a decline of greater than 25 percent.

“Stories like Nandise’s remind us why we must invest in girls and communities facing major public health issues like HIV. Through these investments, young women are empowered to pursue their dreams, to build businesses, and, ultimately, enrich their communities,” said Sego Debeila, a public health specialist in HIV Prevention at CDC South Africa. “These opportunities change girls’ lives and are critical to ending HIV,” she said.

Click here to learn more about CDC’s efforts to address HIV among young women as well as other disproportionately affected groups worldwide.