Exploring South Africa’s Boldest Inventions and Innovations

South African excellence transcends far beyond our borders and even our own imaginations. The last year was no exception and once again we found our sense of pride in our country. Everything we touch becomes gold. In 2019 we brought home the Rugby World Cup, our chefs won Michelin Stars, we brought back Olympic gold medals, and our Soweto Gospel Choir even won a Grammy Award. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Our nation’s innovation has left our mark on every industry. In the medical world, we did the first heart transplant, invented the CAT scan, revolutionised eye surgery by using ice-cold liquid nitrogen, and just last year we pioneered ground-breaking 3D inner-ear surgery. The world’s first digital laser and a full-body X-ray scanner was created by our people. 

We brought the first ever computerised centralised ticket booking system (Computicket) to the tech world. Designer and technology entrepreneur, Elon Musk, is South-African born and he is the co-founder of PayPal – the immediate online payment system used across the globe. In 1999, South African inventors patented the first active RFID-tags that are now widely used in security and identification systems. 

In the energy industry, SASOL is the world’s first and largest refinery that makes oil from coal. Our people’s talents and inventions span down to our deepest oceans and even to the moon - literally! Did you know that George Pratley (from Krugersdorp) invented a glue that held bits of the Apollo 11’s landing craft together? In addition, dolosse (those large concrete blocks used in harbours to prevent waves from wreaking havoc) are widely used at coastlines and are also uniquely South African. In 1995, we created a shark shield using electromagnetic fields to repel sharks from roaming too close to our coasts. As for you nostalgic types, we gave the world the Ubuntu Linux operating system by none other than our own Mark Shuttleworth. 

Sports is an area where we undoubtedly are among the top in the world. We are the crowned champions in rugby, and we excel in netball, hockey, cricket, chess, and many other sports. We even won the Homeless World Cup that helps get homeless people off the streets by bringing them together to play soccer. And, we invented the speed gun that is used to create comprehensive cricket statistics. 

Even the most homely, every-day things are proudly South African – rooibos tea, pinotage and even the Kreepy Krauly in your pool are local inventions. Did you know that South Africa currently holds more than 60 world records? We are proud to say that our country is home to the largest wine cellar in the world, the rarest chameleon, the largest chocolate rabbit, the longest sausage roll and many more. 

We are a nation of brilliant innovations in the culinary arts, science, performing arts, sports and across all other industries. We have 11 Nobel Prizes, our womxn are frequently featured in BBC’s Top 100, our sportspeople are world competitors and we even have 20 recognised words in the Oxford Dictionary ('yebo' being my favourite). We are only a mere 26 years into our new-found democracy, but already we have so much to celebrate. Let’s raise the vuvuzelas, sing along to Nkosi Sikelela and celebrate our nation’s diverse excellence!