Young Expert Philani Cebani: How YEP Programmes helped paving a path for the future

by Philani Cebani

“The foundation enforced by The Young Expert Programme allowed me to gain a global context of challenges within the water and sanitation sector, especially within the African region” - Philani Cebani (batch 6)

Philani Cebani’s professional career started in 2012 at Johannesburg Water, which is one of the biggest water utilities in the country. In 2015 he became part of YEP Programmes, while he worked on the establishment of The Centre of Expertise. This is a non-profit organisation and a platform to demonstrate Dutch water and technologies within South African municipalities. At the end of her YEP period, the platform was adopted by the South African Local Government Association.

Think global, act local

“The biggest contribution from YEP was the mentoring and coaching facilities. These facilities allowed me to adopt techniques on how to harness my strengths while also overcoming my weaknesses. The programme encouraged me to strive towards fulfilling my fullest potential by leveraging my capabilities and exploiting opportunities that exist within my immediate environment while having a global view of the water sector”, says Philani.
At the end of his YEP period, the connections he gained during the programme allowed him to become a student at IHE Delft (the Netherlands), where he completed his MSc in Sanitary Engineering through the Orange Knowledge Programme. Philani: “During my studies, I was also selected to take part in the 2019 UNLEASH programme in Shenzhen, China. This experience further expanded my international network within the water sector by connecting me to like-minded individuals and enabling a horizontal exchange of ideas and experiences and gave me a global context of challenges within the water and sanitation sector, especially within the African region.”


Harnessing YEP facilities during the pandemic

In 2020, during the start of the pandemic, he had just completed his studies and was still in the Netherlands. In this period, he thought about his future career. Philani: “I used the time to utilise YEP resources where I was guided by my coach Linda Reijerkerk. She encouraged me to revisit the original goals that I set at the start of the YEP programme and reflect on my professional journey as I charted the way forward. The coaching and mentorship provided much-needed clarity and strengthened my adaptive capacity. This gave me the idea to have a look at my previous connections back in South Africa so I can see how best to use the skills I had gained previously. I also attended some events organised by the Netherlands Water Partnership where I gained future insights on projects currently being implemented by the Dutch back in South Africa. This gave me the confidence to start my own company here in South Africa.”


Starting his own company: Mvelo Water and Sanitation

Mvelo Water and Sanitation aims to create partnerships between entrepreneurs and entities within the water sector that creates mutually beneficial relationships. Philani’s future ambitions include the establishment of an NGO where we assist vulnerable communities in meeting their water and sanitation needs.
Currently, Philani partners with a company called Cubic M Africa, where he managed to secure a three-year contract with the Water Research Commission. As part of their panel of consultants, he evaluates new and emerging technologies entering the South African Water and Sanitation market. One of the projects they are working on is the deployment of next-generation sanitation technologies to rural schools in South Africa through the South African Sanitation Technology Enterprise Programme (SASTEP). This platform aims to transform sanitation facilities in South Africa by providing innovative solutions to the most vulnerable.
More information about Mvelo Water and Sanitation can be found on

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