December, 2015 | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
How was our blog in 2015?

How was our blog in 2015?

Our blog was launched on 19 February 2014 and every Tuesday (and occasionally on Thursdays) since then we’ve posted articles that have helped our readers explore how entrepreneurship can shape human potential for the greater good. These posts are categorised according to the following groups:

  • Advocacy Days
  • Case Studies
  • Entrepreneurship Conferences
  • Fellow Stories
  • Foundation
  • Guest Writer
  • Opportunities
  • Pillars
  • Social Commentary
  • Thought Leadership

The articles in each of the above categories have had varying success but you can only imagine our joy when we hit our 100th blog post – during Global Entrepreneurship Week no less. The milestone was a pleasant coincidence and cause to celebrate and reflect. Collectively, these 100 posts have had approximately 90 000 page views from a growing pool of nearly 1,700 subscribers. Here are some other celebratory stats about our blog:

  • Talent with a penchant for chocolate

Earlier this year we had an internal staff competition for Talent to guess the exact day and time when we would hit the 1 000th subscriber mark. Our Scholar Development Officer, Jason Pentz, walked away with the top chocolate prize when he, uncannily, guessed 12h39 on Monday 20 April. The correct time was actually 12h41 on Monday 20 April. We had two runner up prizes for Linzi Isaacs and Thabelang Rabotapi – they both guessed 14h30 on Monday 20 April. The worst guess (which earned her a boobie prize for being far off the mark) went to Rebecca Pillay when she guessed that we would have 1 000 subscribers at 21h00 on Wednesday 29 April at 21h00!

  • Mysterious Disney Magic

This Shape the Future post about how Walt Disney embodied our Pillars had the most views (7,800 to be exact). We’re still trying to figure out why this post was so popular because no other post in the Shape The Future series was as popular.

  • GEM gems

We posted two commentaries on the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report. These posts deserve special mention because they were the 2nd and 3rd most-viewed with over 5,000 views each. Interestingly if you google “2014 South Africa GEM report” our blog is listed second only to the official GEM website!

  • Much-a-tweet about Fellows

A story about one of our Fellows (Alumni) Akosua Korangteng had the most tweets of all. 121 in total.

  • Most Retweeted

This post on the importance of mentoring had the highest retweet rate – 78 times in total.

  • Who likes excellence?

A case study on the impressive African Schools for Excellence had the most likes on Facebook – 291 in total.

  • And now for the not so popular (#hide)

The least viewed post (with 191 views) was a Shape the Future post on Arthur Nielsen. Clearly Market Investigating is not as enchanting as Disney!

We’re very proud of the repository on the entrepreneurial development process that our blog posts have allowed us to create. We look forward to continue contributing, like we have with the GEM Report commentaries, to the entrepreneurial culture in South Africa.

Thank you to everyone who has read, subscribed, recommended, forwarded, liked, tweeted, retweeted, and #taggged our posts. Let’s keep the blog ball rolling in 2016 and beyond! Happy Festive Season!

thank you images

10 Videos for 2015

10 Videos for 2015

2016 is just around the corner and what better way to the end this year and to start the New Year motivated about your entrepreneurship journey than with our selection of 10 of some of the best videos on entrepreneurship.

It’s been my observation that we see things not in terms of how they are but in terms of how we are.

Maybe entrepreneurship is no different from any other vocational pursuit but no matter how differently-coloured the lenses from which we each view entrepreneurship and contribute to its ecosystem may be, I think that some insights and experiences are common to all entrepreneurs at different stages of their personal lives and, by extension, business endeavours since entrepreneurship demands the “whole self”.

Remember that our entrepreneurial values are embedded in our 5 Pillars which are:

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.41.25 AM So I’ve developed a handy rating system that will let you know which one of these 5 pillars are activated by each video. Whether you’ve seen the videos before or some of them are new to you, you’ll draw inspiration from them, especially if you’ve changed since the last time you saw them. Each video is 3 minutes or shorter so grab some popcorn and a notebook and give your entrepreneurial mindset an audio-visual boost!

  1. Before you take the leap

If you’re still not convinced that entrepreneurship can and does change the world and that you have the potential to be a great entrepreneur then watch this motivational video by Grasshopper. Granted, it was contextualised for an American audience but its message is relevant for anyone around the world. This video will remind you that you’ve got what it takes, and that, in fact, you’ve never lost it.

Pillars activated:

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  1. When the going gets tough

Whether it’s the video above, a positive opportunity or negative circumstances that get you to become an entrepreneur, in the early days you’ll have moments when you feel like giving up and here’s a word of advice when you feel like doing so: DON’T. In the movie the Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith portrays the struggles of real-life-stockbroking-entrepreneur-and-billionaire-philanthropist, Chris Gardner, in a way that will make you realise that your challenges are not worth comparing to. He was a divorced, indebted, unemployed and homeless single parent – ‘nuff sed.

Pillars Activated:

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  1. The early days

The worst is behind you (or is it?) and now you need to know the do’s and don’ts during the early days of running your business. Watch these for some great tips.

How not to Network

Pillars Activated:

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Challenges of Scaling Up a Business – Vern Harnish


Pillars Activated:

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The 10 Reasons Businesses fail

Pillars Activated:

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  1. Learn from the best

How much is a relationship? What would you pay to be mentored by Rapelang Rabana, Elon Musk, Tony Elumelu or Mark Shuttleworth? Mentors are great for investor introductions, networks, advice, encouragement, praise and the occasional reprimand.

Simon Sinek: Why Reciprocity Improves Mentor Mentee Relationships

Pillars Activated:

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The Importance of Mentorship | The Top Tips

Pillars Activated:

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Steve Jobs on Failure

Pillars Activated:

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  1. Get bigger…not big headed

These videos explain how and why humility will help your business.

Leadership Takes Humility Harvard Business Review

Pillars Activated:

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Ivey | 60 Second Entrepreneur: Melinda Lehman – Humility

Pillars Activated:

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  1. Be a continuous contributor

With all the great tips from these videos success is inevitable. So why not use the success from your entrepreneurship journey to inspire and support others on their journeys too? Then send us the video link so we can share how you did it in next year’s Top 10 review!



Savouring Allan Gray Scholars’ Successes

Savouring Allan Gray Scholars’ Successes

Towards the end of each school year learners are acknowledged for their contributions and achievements throughout the year. Parents’ hearts swell with pride and grateful nods are extended to the educators. Like any other parent, the Foundation basks in the successes of its Scholars and we wish to take this opportunity to congratulate them, their parents and their respective schools for all the effort that went into producing such excellence in 2015.

Bishops Diocesan College

The boys excelled in academics, leadership, sport and culture.

  • Sihle Kahla (Gr 9) was elected to the Student’s Representative Forum while Dean Jacobs (Gr 9) received Academic Full Colours.
  • Erin Solomon and Bulelani Ngqukuvani (both Gr 10) were invited to play for the UCT Philharmonic Orchestra and train with the Western Province and National hockey teams, respectively.

Clarendon High School

  • Nokubonga Mhlongo, Monalisa Johnson and Sibabalwe Matshikhiza (all Gr 10) – were acknowledged for their academic performance. Nokubonga and Monalisa were added to the Merit List while Sibabalwe took first place in her grade for Business Studies
  • Simphiwe Malaza (Gr 11) was acknowledged in the area of service for attaining a top-three finalist spot for her community project at Enke Camp
  • Yolandi Sloti (Gr 11) was appointed Hostel Prefect


Collegiate High School for Girls

The girls walked away with several awards apiece.

  • Precious Gumbo (Gr 10) was elected to the RCL and as the Head of the Hostel Entertainment Committee
  • Owethu Ndaza (Gr 10) was acknowledged as the Best Actress in House Plays and was elected to the Hostel Entertainment Committee and Eastern Province Cricket team
  • Somila Mavuso (Gr 11) was elected Deputy Head Girl, the Deputy Head of Hostel and received the Sam Beyon Hostel Fellowship Award (for being the most approachable and exemplary hostel senior)
  • Gabriella Mogale (Gr 9) was appointed Library Monitor
  • Mbali Titi (Gr 8) was acknowledged for being the most improved netball player and took first place for isiXhosa and History in her grade as well as eighth place for her overall in the grade


Epworth High School for Girls

  • Amukelani Ndlovu, Lereku Mohlabeng and Obakeng Lethlage (all Gr 11) excelled in leadership
  • Amukelani was elected Hostel Prefect, School Prefect and President of Interact
  • Lereko was elected Hostel Prefect, School Prefect and Vice President of Interact
  • Obakeng was elected Deputy Head Girl, Deputy Head of Soccer and Head of Marimba


Grey High School

  • Keeran Bezuidenhout (Gr 11) of took the first position in his grade for Computer Applications Technology


King Edward School

  • Zawadi Shivane and Oyama Mdladla (both Gr 9) were added to the Merit List



  • Aphiwe Mthalane and Luvuyo Magwaza (both Gr 11) were elected as Farfield House Prefect and West House Prefect, respectively


Pietermaritzburg Girls High School

  • Sima Thord-Gray (Gr 10) received a Karate Brown Belt


Rustenburg High School for Girls

Four girls were acknowledged for their leadership ability.

  • Jade Benton (Gr 8) was elected to the Habitat for Humanity Committee
  • Buhle Mcengwa (Gr 10) and Quratul-Ain Parker (Gr 11) were appointed as Head of Jabulani Cultural Society and Head of the Computer Centre, respectively
  • Rebecca Plaatjies (Gr 11) was elected as School Prefect and member of the Interact Committee


Selborne College

Leonardo Doolooa (Gr 10) and the following Gr 11 Scholars were all added to the Merit List for their academic excellence:

  • Lungelo Dlamini
  • Ntobeko Ndimande
  • Lupumlo Kwesaba
  • Lutho Bebeza
  • Leonardo was also one of two students to go on an exchange programme to the UK.


St Andrews School for Girls

Thembelihle Tshabalala and Kagiso Modiakgotla (both Gr 11) ­– showed excellence in leadership and were elected as Head and Deputy Head of Public Speaking, respectively. Kagiso was also elected as Head of the Marketing Committee.


St Cyprians School

  • Laaiqah Taliep (Gr 11) was elected Head of Community Partnerships, received Gold and Bronze Medals at the Western Cape and National Science Fairs and was one of two students selected for the 2015 Round Square Project to India
  • Busisiwe Siyo (Gr 11) was elected as Head of Boarding and as a member of the Public Relations Portfolio Team


St Mary’s, Waverly

The girls excelled in several areas.

  • Aobakwe Selebi (Gr 11) received Half Colours for Art and Choir, Full Colours for Technical Service and Community Service and was elected as Deputy Head of Boarding and Deputy Head of Clayton House
  • Lerato Kubeka (Gr 11) was elected Head of Peer Counseling
  • Keitumetse Pule (Gr 10) was elected as Vice Captain of Basketball and as member of the following committees: Diversity Committee, Events Committee and Environmental Club Committee
  • Khethiwe Sibanyoni (Gr 10) received Half Colours for Technical Skills, Commitments to the Environmental Club Committee, the Best Trinity Solo (for Drama) and was acknowledged as having made the most progress in Tech Club. She was also selected to go on exchange to Sherborne College in the UK.


Well done to all our Scholars – we are very proud of you! Enjoy your well-deserved rest with your friends and family.

17 Fellows expand their entrepreneurial and African horizons

17 Fellows expand their entrepreneurial and African horizons

Ghana_2“Anytime you leave what is familiar and comfortable, you are guaranteed personal growth.” This is what Nkgopoleng Moloi expected to happen when she joined 16 other Fellows on a week-long trip to Accra, Ghana, on 14 November 2015. What she did not expect, however, was the degree to which this would happen.

The Expand Your Horizons trip was facilitated by Dr Thabo Mosala from WITS Business School with the intent of exploring an entrepreneurial ecosystem in another African country. It was hoped that participants would get an idea of some of the challenges and opportunities facing their African peers and develop relationships with young entrepreneurs in Ghana.

The group’s itinerary included visits to universities, entrepreneurial hubs and an incubator. Besides their visits to the city’s major historical landmarks they also engaged in a little street salsa dancing! Here are some of our intrepid travellers’ experiences and reflections:

Lowell Martin Scarr

South Africa isn’t the only place on the continent where things are happening. Maybe that’s obvious, but it needed visiting the place to properly understand. It took a few days to relax in the new environment: smells, sights, thoughts. Stimulation. Suddenly I found myself in a place where I didn’t feel the colour of my skin. People hustling. Alive. Despite the oppression and lack of support.  

Being with the Fellows, who share so much of my history, it was impossible to avoid speaking of things we usually can’t. Our dreams for the future, for home. What it is that’s holding us back and what we can do about it. We can’t keep waiting for the answers to be given to us, we need to make our own.

Mbali Sikakana

Ghana was a chance for me to think away from the noise of South Africa’s very loud problems of race, class and corporatism. It distilled entrepreneurship for me into a simple paradigm of enterprising and self-determination from your available space, resources, labour and moving to greater systems and collaboration. It showed me that society can be differently ordered from what I’m used to and that possibilities exist to shift the macroeconomic issues we have at home with good decisive governance.

I learnt that young people everywhere are concerned with similar things and that we can have conversations that help all of us navigate our spaces with new thinking. Most importantly, we can inspire each other. 

Nkgopoleng Moloi

I was energised and inspired by the sense of urgency, hard work, focus and dedication from some of the entrepreneurs we met. This had such an impact on me that upon my return, I met up with another Fellow to discuss a business idea we’d both like to work on, actively setting up meetings and making plans on how to make this happen. I was also moved by the obvious passion for Africa that we experienced through our interactions with Kobi (the lecturer from Ashesi), artists at Accradotalt as well as the ordinary guys we met on the streets.  

What was interesting and relevant to my portfolio in the Association’s Executive Committee was the stance that Ashesi takes on leadership. I found it interesting that leadership is considered a core pillar of the university and is integrated in the curriculum throughout the university degree. The four facets of leadership; (i) intro to leadership, (ii) ethics, rights and rule of law, (iii) economics of leadership and (iv) community and service seem like a relevant approach on how we can nurture responsible individuals of high impact. This is something I will be exploring more in the hopes of incorporating the learnings into leadership activities planned over the next two years.

Zayne Imam

The trip to Ghana reinforced something about West Africa that I had seen previously while working in Nigeria: that West African citizens have a tenacious sense of enterprise. It’s incredible to witness just how ferociously people will find a way to create a space for themselves to participate in the informal economy.

What I found special about this trip was that I had a chance to deconstruct this notion with a group of likeminded individuals who also intend on having a massive impact on South Africa. 

We explored different reasons that could be attributed to West African entrepreneurial flair that simply hadn’t translated the same way in South Africa. Was it cultural differences? The way their leaders chose to approach the transition to democracy? Their political history?

It’s a deep question that requires further discussion, but it’s nice to know that there’s a great deal for us to learn from our big brother in West Africa!

Lerato Shai

A highlight was meeting Hamza Moshood at the talk party with artists from Accradotalt and realising a few minutes into the conversation that we had a mutual friend. He is a writer and passionate reader of African literature with a wealth of knowledge to share and so much to teach. I have a long reading list as proof. Our conversations left me in awe of his passion for writing and how he is chasing it like it is the most natural thing to do. I’ve since realised it actually is and I need to stop making excuses for not doing the same. 

Ofentse Mareka

The biggest learning point was seeing the Ghanaian culture in action. I think that we were shielded quite a bit given where we stayed and the places we visited, but I do believe that the individuals we spoke to or interacted with gave us a real glimpse of what Ghana is about. I liked that the people in Accra were really entrepreneurial but also conscious of their place in Africa (the world). People there seemed to have urgency about them and took initiative to change their situations (even if it was out of necessity). Looking at the platforms and opportunities we have here in South Africa I left feeling that we should be doing more. We should be more enterprising and should be striving for excellence.  

Sujay Vithal

Going to Ghana has opened my eyes to the challenges that much of Africa still faces. In the same breath I experienced the hope that exists there and the amazing culture of being self-sufficient. I learnt a lot about the history and culture of Ghana, but it also provided me with more appreciation of being a South African. We have very high standards in terms of what we expect of ourselves and that comes through with people being discouraged as a result of corruption and a lack of support from government. South Africa needs to give itself more credit but at no point become complacent – we have all the puzzle pieces; we just need to fit them together properly.

Six 2016 Mandela Rhodes Scholarships go to Candidate Allan Gray Fellows

Six 2016 Mandela Rhodes Scholarships go to Candidate Allan Gray Fellows

The Foundation is proud to introduce the six Candidate Allan Gray Fellows who will form part of the 2016 Mandela Rhodes Scholar cohort. During their time in residence Mandela Rhodes Scholars pursue postgraduate studies and participate in customised leadership development programmes.

The Candidate Allan Gray Fellows in question are Ofentse Noko, who will be undertaking an MSc in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Cape Town; Lethabo Motswaledi, who will pursue an MSc in Engineering Geometrics also at the University of Cape Town; Nkateko Governor Manganye, who will commence with a BCom Honours in Economics at the University of the Witwatersrand; Nompumelelo Zinhle Manzini, who will pursue her MA in Philosophy also at the University of the Witwatersrand; Qaphela Mashalaba, who will be an MPhil student in Financial Mathematics at the University of the Western Cape; and Refiloe Kekana doing a BSc Honours in Statistics.

This is the third year that the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has its beneficiaries added to the ranks of Mandela Rhodes Scholars – an achievement that leave us greatly encouraged about the future of South Africa. The joint efforts of organisations like the Allan Gray Orbis and Mandela Rhodes Foundations continue to inspire hope for the benefiting-all influence of high-impact entrepreneurial leaders in the near future.



Reflections on #GEW

Reflections on #GEW

The annual Global Entrepreneurship Week (#GEW), held between 16 and 22 November, always results in a hive of activity at the Foundation. Along with 43 other partner institutions in South Africa, we celebrated this initiative by covering various aspects of GEW in our blog, running our second #MakeAR100 challenge and speaking about it as often as we could. Our CEO, Anthony Farr, had an interview on eNCA’s Moneyline.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 4.21.02 PMAnthony’s interview allowed him to express his deep concern about the state of entrepreneurship in South Africa. As a developing country, at least 20% of our population should be actively involved in entrepreneurship, but our country’s current involvement sits at only 7% – a third of what it should be.

He pointed out that one of the reasons for our lack of entrepreneurs is a lack of entrepreneurial intent – an inability to see that being a job creator is neither second class nor inferior to being employed. Secondly, the quality of our human capital is not as it should be. The higher-order cognitive activities of innovating are crucial to entrepreneurship and the development of this capacity is often neglected in our current education system.

Yet, despite these dismal statistics, there are those who are passionately striving to be job creators and those who work to discover and help these mavericks on their way. The Foundation’s efforts are all geared to move their beneficiaries from the job-seeking path to one where opportunity recognition and creating solutions are a way of life.

In response to the question of why, despite the many organisations and bodies promoting small business development and entrepreneurship, there is still a lack of entrepreneurs in this country, Anthony made an astute observation. He said that the myriad available opportunities, such as funding, cannot be harnessed without the human capital needed to sustain it. This is why the Foundation places such a premium on things like mentorship, mindset development and starting early.

In addition to starting early Anthony suggested that a shift is needed in the thinking that assumes entrepreneurship is only for a select few. It is precisely for this reason that the Foundation’s #MakeAR100 challenge (which tasks everyone to find a way of making a R100 by providing a service or selling a product) was so passionately pursued. As encouragement to see much more of this kind of entrepreneurship, Anthony said, “There’s a sense that entrepreneurship is this mystical thing that people don’t understand … but there’s a base level of entrepreneurial capacity that we can all bring to our society and it can only be for our benefit.”

Introducing the 2016 Fellows in Residence

Introducing the 2016 Fellows in Residence

The Association of Allan Gray Fellows saw it fit to create the role of an Association Fellow-In-Residence (“FIR”) to act as a link between the Association and its graduated Fellows. The role has been structured to provide support for the Association’s Executive Committee and to develop special projects in line with the Association’s objectives to enhance efficiency, learning and entrepreneurial support for Fellows.

The FIR is expected to allocate 50% of her/his time to her/his own entrepreneurial venture, while providing the above-mentioned support for the remainder of the time.

Congratulations to Benjamin Shaw and Lesedi Kgaka – our FIRs for 2016!

Benjamin, an ex-investment banker who worked for J.P. Morgan in the M&A team in South Africa, graduated from UCT with a BBusSci in Finance & Accounting and founded several ventures as a student. He is currently getting his new company (HouseME) – which facilitates transactions between tenants and landlords via a mobile platform – off the ground. Ben spends what little time off he has refereeing rugby and playing games online.

Lesedi, also a former BBusSci Finance & Accounting student, is the owner of an estate agency, LRH Properties, which operates in Gauteng. It specialises in selling and letting residential property to investors seeking above average market returns. Lesedi has three years’ experience in the industry, working in Cape Town and in Johannesburg. She is currently registered for an MSc in Property Studies from her alma mater, UCT.

Both Lesedi and Benjamin saw the FIR opportunity as an ideal way to contribute to the Foundation and as a way to pay the bills while transitioning into full-time entrepreneurship. They aim to provide some perspective to the Association on how best to relate to and support Fellows, creating a better experience for them.

I hope to leave a template for efficiency for the next FIR and also make a substantial contribution to Association literature and practical learnings,” says Benjamin. He is excited to contribute his passion for efficiency, practical tips for starting a business and skills in strategy and communication. Another focus area for him would be a more efficient working relationship between the Fellowship and e2.

Lesedi intends to bring an enlightened perspective on how the Association engages with Fellows. She hopes to create better processes for future FIRs to operate from and improve the Association’s initiatives and systems.

They both realise that they stand to gain a lot from the experience. Lesedi’s goals are both practical – learning to improve her administrative and project management skills – and long term. “I would also like to improve my network within the Association with Fellows in the hope of developing useful business relationships.” Benjamin hopes to learn more about collaboration, teamwork, business processes, and entrepreneurial ideas around the world.

There is no doubt that having Lesedi and Benjamin as Fellows in Residence will be an all-round enriching experience.


A Meeting Of Minds Around Philanthropy  by Dinika Govender

A Meeting Of Minds Around Philanthropy by Dinika Govender

Peartree Photography | ERFIP 2015 South Africa |
Peartree Photography | ERFIP 2015 South Africa |

It isn’t everyday one receives an invitation to hang out with a group of influential philanthropists. So when one does, one jumps at the opportunity – elegantly and eloquently, of course.

Such was the case when the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation extended an invitation to Candidate Fellows and Fellows to introduce ourselves and our experience of the Allan Gray Fellowship to ERFIP (Empowering Families For Innovative Philanthropy) – a group of families from emerging market countries exploring more effective methods of philanthropy and inspiring other influential families to do similarly.

Not one to indulge in cult-fiction, I could only imagine a group of impeccably, if not royally, dressed European families with the most discerning evaluations of South Africa, its issues and its youth’s potential to address us. With little information about the group to be found online, this mental image was not too unrealistic.

However, the ERFIP members proved to be nothing like that high-brow stereotype. They were a group who seemed excited to be in South Africa, and curious to meet us young ones who are direct beneficiaries of Allan Gray’s philanthropy. I, for one, was very curious about their philosophies around philanthropy and why they saw it necessary to seek “more effective” models for it.

I soon learned that there is a concerted effort being made to reduce dependency relationships that too often form with big-brand philanthropy projects, an effort being led by families such as ERFIP members who are investing in longer-term development efforts that address deficits in human capital rather than its symptoms.

Through our breakaway discussions with smaller groups of ERFIP members, the learnings and insights were mutually beneficial. We Fellows and Candidate Fellows got an opportunity to share our journeys leading up to joining the Foundation, our experience of the Fellowship  and our aspirations in the Association.

In isolation, this was an excellent personal exercise and I’m confident each Fellow walked away with a renewed sense of gratitude, humility and resolve. In context, to have our journeys with the Foundation probed by ERFIP was both refreshing and enlightening.

Refreshing, because rarely do we have the opportunity to critically discuss the mechanics of the Foundation as an organisation fulfilling a philanthropic mission. The ERFIP members were very interested in the real experiences of Fellows in the programme for the purposes of designing their own successful programmes. This authentic interest created an ideal environment for the sharing of ideas and opinions about how philanthropic programmes can and should run. Enlightening, because we Fellows got to learn of numerous efforts underway around the world to address local issues not unlike South Africa’s issues. Such glimpses into the struggles of other people in other parts of the world are critical to local effectiveness with a sense of global perspective.

Given more time, we might have even chartered an interconnected strategy in aid of global socioeconomic development. But we’ll save that for next time and get on with our ground-work in the interim.


Global Entrepreneurship Index 2016 – South Africa leading Africa and the BRICS

Global Entrepreneurship Index 2016 – South Africa leading Africa and the BRICS

During the recent Global Entrepreneurship Week we noted the release of 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Index which provides a comprehensive overview of the health of a nation’s ecosystem through the development of an index methodology linking countries entrepreneurial framework conditions with individual level entrepreneurial attitudes, abilities and aspirations. The GEI not only ranks more than 130 countries on their entrepreneurial ecosystems but also provides a framework for understanding how those countries measure up against neighbouring ecosystems. Distinct from both output-based entrepreneurship indexes (i.e., new firm counts) and framework-based indexes (i.e., comparisons of countries’ policies and regulations), the GEI is designed to profile national entrepreneurial ecosystems. As stated by Zoltan Acs, founder of the GEI “In entrepreneurship, quality matters more than quantity. To be entrepreneurial, a country does not necessarily need the most entrepreneurs. They need the best. We must look to the countries with entrepreneurship-rich ecosystems to discover best practices and strengthen the world’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

GEI 2016 Index Ecosystem Model


This index makes for much better reading than most other South African entrepreneurship measures.  As in the 2105 Index South Africa is the best performing country in Sub Saharan Africa. It is also the best performing of any of the BRICS countries. After the consistently depressing news coming out of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reports it is a source of encouragement to end the year reflecting on the GEI 2016 results.

GEI 2016 Index SA

But it is not all good news.  While retaining our top position in Africa, South Africa’s overall score has dropped from 40% in 2015 to 38.5% in 2016 (in simple terms GEI suggests that we are operating at 38.5% of our entrepreneurship capacity, compared to the top country USA, which is operating at 86.2% of its capacity) Furthermore of the 14 pillars that make up the GEI, our weakest areas remain people related: start up skills and human capitals.  While the people challenges in South Africa are well know, it is interesting to note the third area of weakness is risk capital and this has shown a strong downward trend. It is evident that gaps in certain levels and types of funding is constraining the South African entrepreneurship ecosystem. Although as noted in our post from the ANDE annual conference there is an undeniable link between the financial capital invested and the level of human capital able to absorb that finance. So maybe even the risk capital deficit is also people related.

Finally the GEI has started to identify more far reaching implications of entrepreneurship. As Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Network notes  “Of particular significance to policymakers, this year’s edition of the Index offers evidence that entrepreneurship is a “global good” as it is highly correlated with bigger-picture human welfare goals such as increased economic growth, reduced income inequality, enhanced environmental quality, and wider political stability and security. The data provides evidence that entrepreneurs are a force for peace, equality and expanded human welfare.” Entrepreneurs as a force for equality is exactly the intention behind the Foundation’s vision in fostering responsible entrepreneurship for the common good.  It is exciting to read confirmation of this aspiration in such a well-researched context.

The full GEI 2016 Report can be downloaded here

Looking into the future and finding hope

Looking into the future and finding hope


Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 8.41.58 AM2015 has been a difficult year. It seems that at every juncture a new challenge rises to our attention. As load shedding started to subside, we were introduced to the increasing likelihood of water shedding. Just as the auditor general report entrenched a realisation that irregular government spending was now becoming the norm at levels of over R25 billion, we then face the prospect of a nuclear investment stretching toward a trillion Rand. Each success in the court that brings back some sense of order to the running of important national institutions is then met with yet another example of chronic lack of governance, most recently the reckless board interference at SAA. And through all this, one measure has been stubbornly consistent. Despite huge attention, a raft of initiatives and plans, South Africa has not been able to shift its unemployment rate from its unacceptable level of 25%. And looking forward it’s difficult to imagine this changing when according to the Global Entrepreneurial Monitor released earlier this year South Africa’s level of entrepreneurship has plummeted by around 30% to a level of 7% of the adult population, way less than our African peers and about two thirds less than an economy of our stage and size should rightly expect.

The greater challenge with all this battering is that is starts to extinguish that most precious commodity – the flame of hope.   We can endure almost anything when there is still hope for the future. This year has been tough on hope.

Yet there is one very strong remedy for this hopelessness and that is to have insight into the potential of youth. At the Foundation we have a privileged position. We have a unique window into the enormous potential and energy of youth. In a week’s time we will be hosting the final selection camp of 2015 bringing to a close our year-long mission to find around 100 of the most entrepreneurial youth in the country. We do this with the conviction, as described by Timmons, that “entrepreneurship is not just about innovation or creativity. It is also about fostering an ingenious human spirit for improving mankind”

Selection starts with the processing of nearly 2 000 application forms. On reading through these documents with applicants describing their inspiring and powerfully-held dreams and explaining some of the extraordinary achievements they have already undertaken, hope starts to return.  These submissions provide a unique glimpse into the future and it is a future that is filled with possibility.  From every corner of the country, from crowded cities to rural communities, these ambassadors of change, a real rainbow nation group, describe a new way, a way fueled by imagination and focused on solutions rather than problems. A way that opens the door to improving humankind.

Beyond the global recognition in fields as diverse as debating, sport and international olympiads, it is the deep-felt passion about shaping the future that is most impressive. As in years before, there is a consistent thread through the thousands of answers that the status quo must change. Interestingly, there is no word about politics or any suggested reliance on government to provide the solution. It is clear that this group at least appreciates its own agency over change and is not afraid to do things differently. Hope explodes off almost every page.

The list of enterprises in which the applicants have been involved touches all aspects of society from media, nutrition, retail and IT to education, creating secondary markets in children products or even beauty projects. One young lady had started her own non-profit which raised R100k for conservation by the age of 11.  Another had used multimedia to challenge societal norms of young learners. One had started a recording studio and yet another had founded a hybrid social network which facilitates communication across video, song and photography. But even more powerful than these initiatives is our complete confidence, after 10 years in this work, that these pursuits will lead to real future endeavour. The video below shows how this initial entrepreneurial energy gets harnessed at the next stage of university.

After each year’s selection, I am reminded of something Mr. Allan Gray often says – “We should have great confidence in the ability of youth.” Indeed we underestimate them at our peril. As we come to the end of 2015, I can’t help but think that he is right. And as always, I can’t help but be optimistic about what the future holds when the potential of these young citizens is realised. I have hope.


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