A North West University student has flown the South African flag high in Frankfurt, Germany after being crowned the winner of the 2019 Future Leaders Forum at the World Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events (IMEX).
On Wednesday, Emile Coetzee was crowned the winner among five other finalists from around the world.
She was awarded with the MPI Foundation/Maritz Global Events Student Scholarship and will jet off to New York to present her idea at a gala dinner.
Participants in the competition had to come up with ideas that would ensure food security in the future. Coetzee presented her "Forbidden Fruit" concept which focuses on the consumption of wild plants.
While presenting the idea, Coetzee said the consumption of wild food, including nutritious weeds in our gardens, can "reduce the gap of sustainability and poverty" in the near future.
"In the context of food, South Africa is very [diverse]. It is something unique we can give to the rest of world in terms of our conservation," she said.
She thought of the concept when she realised that other finalists would be incorporating technology into their food security solutions.
"I thought about what other people would do and thought they will go for more technology-driven food, like how meat will be produced in technological ways," said Coetzee.
Coetzee said she then thought about what South Africans were looking for in their food and came up with the Forbidden Fruit concept.
"I looked at the nation as a whole. All of us want to live more sustainably and do not want GMO in our foods. So I thought of forbidden fruit, which goes back to where it all started, to [teach] people to harvest wild food. It can be more sustainable than technology-driven food," she said.
While presenting, she also suggested that people take a look in their gardens to find nutritional wild plants.
"The weeds in your garden; not all of it is poisonous. It might just make a tasty salad," she said.
Coetzee believes South Africa is one of the "breadwinners" for Africa's tourism and meetings industries, attracting the bulk of international tourists to the continent.
"We had the opportunity to be at IMEX, meet a lot of people from different countries and represent Africa as a whole - it will definitely bring new feet to the [continent]," she added.
South African Tourism's Chief Convention Bureau Officer, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo said it was a proud moment to see South Africa shining globally.
"Credit must also go to the tourism faculty at North West University as Emile is the third student from the university to have won this prestigious award in the past five years. It is also encouraging to note that the next generation of tourism leaders from the African continent are starting to come through," said Kotze-Nhlapo.