Wilna Botha is the founder and CEO of Africa!Ignite, a not-for-profit rural development agency that is based in KwaZulu-Natal and that focuses on development of women and youth, on craft and tourism entrepreneurship, and on story-telling.
Since 2012, Africa!Ignite has piloted and refined WOWZULU Responsible Tourism as a model for creating ‘sustainable’ tourism destinations that incorporate commercial, community-based and wilderness components, underpinned by principles of social, environmental and economic sustainability. WOWZULU operates in 7 tourism nodes across KwaZulu-Natal, and has been recognised by the national Department of Tourism as a role model for sustainable tourism.
Wilna is a former investigative journalist, education researcher, communications specialist and college lecturer. She worked as an education and health researcher and investigative journalist from 1976 to 1992 and won national awards as South Africa’s medical journalist of the year, as runner-up to education writer of the year and for health reporting.
In 1993 she was commissioned to do research into the potential role of the media in the transformation of South Africa’s education system, which led to the formation of the Media-in-Education Trust (MiET) Africa in 1996. Wilna was founder and executive director of MiET Africa from 1996 to 2007, over which period the organisation grew into a leading education development organisation across South Africa and the SADC region.
Wilna has written, edited and co-edited several books and papers. In 1997 she co-wrote ‘The city that leapt to life’ to celebrate Johannesburg’s centenary and in 2009 she wrote ‘BURNING BRIGHT: Extraordinary women of KwaZulu-Natal’. In 2009 and 2010, she was co-leader of a National Research Foundation-funded research project ‘Learning from Africa to lead in Africa’. She has also provided technical support to media-in-education and development agencies in Ghana, Ethiopia and Liberia.
Wilna has presented papers at several South African and international conferences, on topics including sustainable and responsible tourism, rural development, enterprise development, and on the power of story-telling.