Bridgette Gasa

The daughter of two prominent KwaZulu-Natal educators, Bridgette Gasa grew up visiting the province’s most impoverished schools. The neediness she saw left a desire to build South Africa’s educational infrastructure. Literally. Just 16 when she started her building arts studies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), Gasa recently returned to academia for her PhD in construction management, graduating in early 2012. In the interim, she built a small empire. She founded The Elilox Group in 2008, steadily turning it into a respected building consultancy and construction firm. So impressive was her leadership that in 2011 Gasa served on the National Planning Commission, where she chaired the nation-building working group. This success has enabled her to satisfy the obligation she feels towards education. As a start, she has established full scholarships for girls to study for built environment degrees at NMMU and plans to build five libraries for rural schools by the end of the year.

— Ian Macleod