March, 2016 | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
World Debating Champions Credit Their Diversity for Success

World Debating Champions Credit Their Diversity for Success

160114k1-2One’s body can do strange things when you have just received news that you are a World Debating Champion. This is what Candidate Allan Gray Fellow, Fenelesibonge Maswhama, realised soon after being heralded the 2016 Debating World Champions along with debating partner Bo Seo.

“An odd mix of relief, exhaustion, and excitement,” is how Maswhama described sensation of winning. The tournament followed a British parliamentary style format and competitors received debate topics 15 minutes in advance of each round. “You’re asking your body to do a lot, like concentrat[e], think very fast, b[e] anxious between decisions, so I think we just collapsed,” Mashwama said. “It is physically exacting.”

This year’s competition was held in Thessaloniki, Greece; its winners hail from Australia (Seo) and Swaziland, respectively; and they entered the competition as members of an American university’s debating team. A cosmopolitan mix indeed. What’s more, Mashwama and Seo met in Cape Town before they both decided to go to Harvard University. One of the reasons Maswhama chose Harvard was because of its debating team – quite strategic since Harvarders have already walked away with the World Champion title twice before. Seo credits their diversity as the reason for their success.


Photo caption: Bo Seo ’17  (right) and Fanelesibonge Mashwama ’17 in the octo-finals of the World Universities Debating Championship in Greece earlier this month. The pair ultimately won the tournament, which is the world’s largest debating competition.  Credit to: James Laird-Smith
Photo caption: Bo Seo ’17 (right) and Fanelesibonge Mashwama ’17 in the octo-finals of the World Universities Debating Championship in Greece earlier this month. The pair ultimately won the tournament, which is the world’s largest debating competition.
Credit to: James Laird-Smith

The duo from Harvard competed against hundreds of students from more than 250 institutions across the globe. They had the advantage of having been finalists at the previous year’s competition. They knew what to expect. Kind of. In the final round of this year’s championship, Seo and Mashwama argued that the global poor would be justified in pursuing a Marxist revolution. “We certainly hadn’t prepped for the poor having a Marxist revolution as a topic,” said Seo. However, being a political major and having a philosopher as partner was especially helpful because they understood the big ideas.

One of the team’s coaches, Sarah M. C. Balakrishnan, attributes their success to the chemistry they share: “Bo is a really eloquent and probing speaker who is great at excavating big ideas; Fanele, on the other hand, is best at attacking the opposing side’s claims and exploring in detail the arguments on the table … I’ve never seen them not on the same page.”

Having spent so much time in the debating trenches, sharing the same anxieties and pressures to think on one’s feet cannot but forge a great relationship. It is no wonder then that Mashwama believes, “We’ll be close friends for the rest of our lives.”




An immersion in international entrepreneurial excellence

An immersion in international entrepreneurial excellence

Stepping into her new role as Fellowship Director, Dr Nontobeko Mabizela, decided to immerse herself in entrepreneurial knowledge by learning from international counterparts and exposing herself to as much entrepreneurial excellence as possible.

A whirlwind tour of America’s East Coast with stops in Boston, Wellesley and New York ensued in December 2015. Her mission was threefold: to sharpen her entrepreneurial knowledge, to connect and offer support to expatriate Candidate Allan Gray Fellows and to seek out the best practice for running a mentoring programme.

In Boston Dr Mabizela met with Candidate Allan Gray Fellows and was surprised to find that they were already forming a small community – they knew of each other and were connecting independently before. “They appreciated that we were on the ground,” said Dr Mabizela of their response to her visit. The meeting allowed them to share their experiences and difficulties on the one hand and offer hope and potential solutions on the other.

Boston also proved an ideal location for sourcing support for these Candidate Fellows since it is home to so many incubation hubs for startup companies. Dr Mabizela connected with two such launch labs that expressed great interest in inviting the Candidate Fellows there, free of charge. Throughout the remainder of her tour, she would find similar offers of in-person support for the Candidate Fellows, be it in the form of mentoring or invitations to attend programmes.

One such offer came from Emzingo’s co-founder, Drew Bonfiglio. He not only volunteered his time as mentor, but also welcomed the Foundation’s beneficiaries to join in the training offered to pre-graduates, that is, young people who are on their way to the job market but who are not quite ready for it yet. Emzingo’s programme empowers young people to do what Americans call “climbing the ladder.” Their approach to leadership, however, can be described as quite African. “They align with us in that they focus on leadership that builds and seeks to empower communities,” explained Dr Mabizela.

In Wellesley, she visited Babson College to discuss matters of curriculum design and facilitation training – further efforts to offer on-the-ground support to the Fellowship Community’s expats. The team at Babson had already offered significant support to her colleagues with curriculum design for the Association of Allan Gray Fellows.

The three highlights of her trip all occurred in the big apple where Dr Mabizela was introduced to Endeavor. Here she found the cost-effectiveness with which their entrepreneurship programme was being run quite astounding. “Even their offices are modest.” They have an impressive monitoring and evaluation process in place and are able to track the progress of every single individual they have ever worked with. They also only work with entrepreneurs who were ready to launch their business. In contrast, Echoing Green’s offering to their Fellows, while much more lavish, expects them to do business while studying. They also do not make use of a standard entrepreneurship programme but instead tailors a programme to the individual’s needs. Both these organisations proved that there is no one way of training entrepreneurs. The only requirement and common denominator between the two is a rich knowledge base.

The third highlight and final stop for Dr Mabizela was the Mentoring Partnership of New York where she was able to attend a day-long workshop about managing mentorship programmes. The organisation is a government initiative in the States aimed at providing free support to the many entrepreneurship programmes being run in the country. An invitation to attend was recently extended to African organisations and it was an opportunity that Dr Mabizela had to seize. The workshop covered many aspects of mentoring, including how to recruit, situations to be avoided, what to include in a mentorship contract and how to structure the programme so that a minimum number of engagements are guaranteed.

Dr Mabizela was especially excited about how her new-found knowledge could impact the Fellowship’s Mentoring Programme in future. In essence, her whirl-wind tour was more than just a trip abroad; it was an empowering experience that is bound to leave an indelible mark of excellence on all Dr Mabizela’s endeavours at the Foundation.



Foundation’s Global Significance a Priority  By Fredell Jacobs

Foundation’s Global Significance a Priority By Fredell Jacobs

It is not often that one has the pleasure of doing what you love for a living. Joining the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation allows me to extend that pleasure beyond working with startups to making a small contribution towards the development of high-impact entrepreneurship in South Africa. This is the first time that I am joining a public benefit organisation and it is such a privilege to play a part in a journey that can take a deserving individual from the dusty streets of a rural town to the corridors of power in corporate South Africa. My personal story is not much different from such a journey and this makes it easy to relate to our mission.

My own journey with entrepreneurship capacity development started in 2009 when I was part of the inaugural team at Wits Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurship. We installed the first management team, drafted the first programmes for delivery and hosted the 13th MIT Global Startup Workshop. This experienced inspired me to make an active contribution in the local entrepreneurship ecosystem and I started the South African Startup Index (SASi) to track startup companies for venture capital investment readiness. SASi opened up many opportunities to take entrepreneurship capacity development to the rest of the continent with collaboration in Namibia, Kenya, Tunisia and Ghana. A definite highlight of this work emerged through the launch of the African Startup Index (ASi) at the Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2011.

Before joining the Foundation, I had the pleasure of working in the public sector as an executive at Africa’s first international accredited science park, The Innovation Hub. My portfolio, which included the Maxum Business Incubator, The Climate Innovation Centre, mLab and CoachLab, offered an exciting combination of commercialisation and skills development. My work there gave me a different perspective on long-term investment for innovation and some practical experience around practicing innovation.

I am extremely excited about the challenge that lies ahead as the head of Impact Assurance at the Foundation. Given the good fortune of joining a highly competent and professional team who are all passionate about their work and their personal contributions towards entrepreneurship capacity development, it will be hard not to succeed. Our long-term focus and desire to be the best in the world is what excites me most about our mission and I am committed to ensure that our work makes a contribution that will be globally significant.






New Beneficiaries Join the Foundation

New Beneficiaries Join the Foundation

33 new Allan Gray Scholars and 105 new Candidate Allan Gray Fellows have been inducted into the Scholarship and Fellowship Programmes respectively. They were welcomed and introduced to the Foundation, the Programme teams and Programme curriculums during that orientation events that were held in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

The Scholarship Orientation

The new Allan Gray Scholars were joined by their custodians, current Allan Gray Scholars, their custodians and graduated Scholars as well as their custodians. The mixture of new, current and former beneficiaries allowed for a lot of personal engagement with the experience of the Scholarship Programme and Placement Schools.

During one of the five orientation sessions, current and former Scholars and custodians shared their personal stories. The other sessions were dedicated to acknowledging the new Scholars’ Grade 7 results, introducing the Foundation’s Scholarship Team, discussing the curriculum content and listening to the new Scholars’ presentations about their Placement Schools. (They were tasked to do research about their chosen school.)

The 2015 Orientation also marked the first official engagement between the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and Standard Bank. Their Tutuwa Programme’s eight Tutuwa Scholars and custodians also joined the orientation event.

The Fellowship Orientation

IMG_7467Unlike the orientation event held for Scholars, the Fellowship Orientation events are mandatory for both new and current Candidate Allan Gray Fellows. In addition to encouraging cohesion between the old and new beneficiaries, the attendance of the annual orientation event throughout the four years of the candidate’s journey with the Foundation encourages the beneficiaries’ consistent engagement. It also allows the Foundation to keep beneficiaries informed of any Programme and process changes made in the quest to stay on the cutting edge of the latest entrepreneurial trends.

This year the Fellowship cohorts engaged regionally, at Belmont Square, Rondebosch, in the Western Cape and at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Johannesburg, in Gauteng. A total of 264 Candidate Allan Gray Fellows attended both events. New beneficiaries were formally awarded the Fellowship and received certification. A special awards ceremony was also held to acknowledge existing Candidate Allan Gray Fellows who have excelled beyond the mandatory requirements of the Fellowship Programme by making the most of the iShift Cognician and Ignitions programmes.

A new, refined Fellowship Programme curriculum were also introduced at the event. The new curriculum’s alignment to the Learning Outcomes and Success Profile were discussed. Based on the lively interaction between beneficiaries and their questions during the various information sessions, there’s no doubt that all the orientation events were successful.

If you would like to be one of the Foundation’s beneficiaries in 2017, be sure to send your application before the following dates:

Fellowship applications

  • South Africa: Grade 12 learners should apply before 29 April 2016.
  • South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia and Botswana: 1st Year University students should apply before 31 August 2016.
  • Swaziland: Grade 12 learners should apply before 31 May 2016.
  • Namibia: Grade 12 learners should apply before 1 June 2016.
  • Application forms are available on our Fellowship webpage.

Scholarship applications

  • Current Grade 6 learners can only apply for placement in 2018. Applications will open in June this year. Please visit our Scholarship webpage for regular updates.


2016 Circle of Excellence Schools Announced

2016 Circle of Excellence Schools Announced

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 8.48.13 AMThe Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s annual Circle of Excellence has become synonymous with recognition and reward of excellence. The initiative was launched to increase the pool of applicants for the Allan Gray Fellowship and resulted in a network of feeder high schools that we refer to as our COE partners.

Several of these COE partners have succeeded in consistently delivering quality Candidate Allan Gray Fellow applicants over the last few years. In some cases the overall number of successful applicants from COE partners are now in the region of 40 and 50. These figures bear testament to the passion and excellence with which entrepreneurial practices and thinking are encouraged at these institutions.

The 100 schools that will be receiving acknowledgement for their efforts in developing exceptional individuals with high entrepreneurial potential come from every corner of the country. 84 of them are returning COE partners, while the remaining 16 will be welcomed in our ranks for the first time. They are, in no particular order, Crawford College La Lucia, Theodor Herzl High School, Prestige College, St Stithians Boys College, Milner High School, Hoërskool Pretoria-Wes, Selly Park Secondary, Westering High School, Potchefstroom Boys High School, Victoria Girls High School, Hoërskool Randburg, Camps Bay High School, Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Taxila Secondary School, Tshivhase Secondary School and Northcliff High School.

Besides the acknowledgement of excellence that each of these 100 schools receive, they will also be invited to send a representative of theirs to the Foundation’s Circle of Excellence Principals’ Conference later in the year. A weekend away will be spent in the company of like-minded individuals, engaging each other on the topics of entrepreneurial best practice and development strategies. The conference thus serves the dual purpose of exposing our COE partners to thought leadership on entrepreneurship and thanking them for the integral part they play in cultivating high-impact entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Commending the Scholarship Class of 2015 By Molefe Mohlamoyane

Commending the Scholarship Class of 2015 By Molefe Mohlamoyane

IMG_0340 - Copy‘I have had worse partings, but none that so

Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly

Saying what God alone could perfectly show –

How selfhood begins with a walking away,

And love is proved in the letting go.’

  • Day Lewis

This last stanza of the poem, ‘Walking away’ aptly describes the atmosphere at the recently held Grade 12 Scholar Graduation ceremony. The 44 graduating Scholars were part of 5354 Grade 6 learners who applied for the Scholarship opportunity in 2009.  They join a community of 70 other Scholars who have graduated from the programme since 2012.

Year 2012 2013 2014 2015
# Graduates 12 17 41 44


This ceremony marked a significant milestone in the lives of the Class of 2015, offering them the opportunity to pause and enjoy their achievements before stepping up to their next challenge of achieving Higher Education success.

The Class of 2015 completed the programme successfully and received Bachelor passes in their Grade 12 examinations, amassing 133 distinctions in the process. We commend all Scholars for a job well done. Five Scholars who obtained distinctions in all their subjects deserve special mention:

Name Placement School # Distinctions
1. Bathandwa Mbadlanyana Selborne College 7
2. Joshua Knipe Bishops Diocesan College 8
3. Sheik Toorabally Bishops Diocesan College 7
4. Tristan Brandt Selborne College 7
5. Ziyandiswa Mvelase Pietermaritzburg Girls 7


91% of the Class of 2015 will be pursuing their studies at various tertiary institutions across South Africa in 2016, while 28% of them will be transitioning into the Fellowship Programme. We are confident that even more graduates will become Candidate Allan Gray Fellows in their first year of university.

MH000177The guest speakers at the event all commended the Scholars’ success thus far and gave advice and encouragement for achieving their future goals. Seema Dala, a member of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Board of Trustees, encouraged them to become architects of their destiny, using what they have learned during the Scholarship Programme as a springboard for future success. Sabelwa Matikinca, a former Scholar and currently a Year Experience (4th year) Candidate Allan Gray Fellow, urged them to pursue their passion courageously and unapologetically and to never give up because there would always be somebody watching and drawing inspiration from them. Lesedi Kgaka, an Allan Gray Fellow, warned them of distractions that would deter them from their goals and shared practical advice for flexing their entrepreneurial muscles.

The four Scholars who spoke on behalf of their graduating class, Karabo Shai, Tristan Brandt, Thabang Mokoena and Vuyolwethu Mahlangeni, expressed a sense of feeling empowered and great gratitude for the strong bonds of friendship they had developed over the last five years and vowed to take these into the next phase of their lives.

IMG_0344 - Copy


How Entrepreneurship Saved a Village By Savannah Keeter

How Entrepreneurship Saved a Village By Savannah Keeter

310067_305996309494454_164634161_n“As the Foundation looks to harness the power of the entrepreneurial spirit, we are often amazed at some of the unlikely places that this spirit can be found.  Today’s blog piece tells the remarkable story of how one of the poorest communities in Africa has found a way to benefit from the potential of entrepreneurship.  In a further unlikely connection the products of this entrepreneurial venture have become an important part of a ritual in the Foundation’s annual community building Connect Camp, where Candidate Fellows are given a Hope Art bracelet in recognition of sharing their defining moment.  In this way some of the highest potential young entrepreneurs are connected in the broader African entrepreneurship ecosystem with their counterparts in Western Zambia.  There are few limits to the possibilities of entrepreneurship! Enjoy reading how entrepreneurship saved a village by Savannah Keeter.”

One of the absolute main focuses of The Zambia Project is to work to improve the lives of the orphaned and vulnerable children in the Western Province of Zambia. While this objective can cover a multitude of different programs, the Project has continued to improve and evolve in order to better serve the Zambian people and fulfill additional needs within the community.

When our founders, Paul and Marinette van Coller, moved to Mongu back in 2003, they could never have imagined the desperation, the need, and the hunger that they were going to face in the Western Province. For the first year that they were there, they worked to build relationships with people and thoroughly assess the most important needs of those within the community. These needs came in the form of malnourished children, uneducated and young mothers, lack of finances for education, hunger, thirst, and disease. In 2009, they started to teach basic school lessons underneath a tree at the bottom of our base in Mongu, teaching just a handful of children at the time. More and more children wanted to start attending these classes and, with this new influx of learners came more and more need for a proper school. Many of them that were attending were orphaned, were hungry, needed guidance and proper healthcare in order to learn and thrive. Our eyes were opened and, from there, we came to realize the incredible need for education, healthcare, and a safe and loving environment for the estimated 100,000 orphans in the Western Province of Zambia. We continued to grow the classes as we strove to decrease the number of desperate children in and around Mongu. In 2010, the school doubled in size to hold an incredible 150 learners from preschool to Grade 4! We were so excited to grow to this capacity and provide more children with the opportunity to receive an education. As the school continued to grow, we wondered more and more about where the funding was going to come from in order to continue running this school. While we implemented a child sponsorship program that we still utilize, we knew that we needed a more sustainable way to fund and run our school.

Around this time was when our founder, Marinette van Coller, had the idea for “Hope Art”. She talked with some of the local women at our church about finding a way to help provide money to run the new school and got a few incredible ladies who were willing to volunteer their time to help! Marinette then brought a friend from South Africa to come and teach a few ladies how to roll beads out of strips of paper, dip them into varnish, and string them into bracelets, necklaces, and key chains. The ladies came in, day in and day out, to make bracelets and necklaces that were helping to provide an education for some of their nieces, nephews, neighbors, and children that they didn’t even know. They were dedicated to seeing their community improves by empowering the next generation and giving them opportunities to succeed. After a few months of rolling beads and perfecting the process of making jewelry, Marinette took the jewelry down to South Africa to sell. And it was a huge hit! The stock that she brought down sold so quickly that she knew that Hope Art was going to have to grow!

After she came back to Zambia, she started working out a way in which we could raise money for the vulnerable children while also empowering some of the struggling widows and single mothers within our community. Instead of having volunteers from our church rolling the paper beads and stringing them into jewelry, we employed a few local ladies who we knew were struggling to find jobs and provide for their families. Many of the women that now make Hope Art are HIV positive, didn’t have any form of income before, and/or have many kids that they struggle to provide for.

We see this holistic approach to humanitarian aid as the most effective and the most needed. The approach in which we empower locals, helping them to learn a trade and have a chance to provide for them instead of having things handed out. We are striving to make all of our Hope Art ladies as self-reliant as possible. Not only is Hope Art empowering local women providing them a skill and an opportunity to bring in income, it is also impacting the lives of the children in the Western Province. After the ladies are paid for their hard work, we send Hope Art to be sold in America, Canada, South Africa and many other parts of the world. Any and all Hope Art profits are then sent back to Zambia to be used to improve the school, bring more children into our classes, dig water wells in rural villages, or provide healthcare for the children that come into our malnutrition center. We love getting to tell the Hope Art ladies what impact THEY made on THEIR community by making Hope Art with such excellence.

Since Hope Art has taken off in such a big way, we have started to expand our products, making bags out of local fabric (chitenges), precious little Hope Art Critters, and fun, playful headbands as well! We now have 9 Hope Art ladies and are looking to continue growing and impacting more and more lives of local women, orphaned and vulnerable children in the Western Province of Zambia. With 460 children now attending our school, new classrooms being built, teachers employed, we can’t wait to see what the future holds and are so excited to see where Hope Art support is going to be able to take us!

If you are interested in supporting Hope Art, please go and visit our webpage, to order your Hope Art jewelry or to find out ways in which YOU can help out!



From Crime to Creativity – Medellin, hosts the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Congress

From Crime to Creativity – Medellin, hosts the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Congress

Starting from a small initiative in the United Kingdom in 2007 to promote entrepreneurship through the idea of an entrepreneurship week, that seed has grown into a global movement touching 160 countries across the world, consolidated into a single global entrepreneurship ecosystem known as Global Entrepreneurship Network (“GEN”) with a wide variety of offerings in the areas of support, compete, understand and connect. In each of these fields, GEN is able to harness its global reach to create unique scale and insight for the purpose of accelerating the development of entrepreneurship across the globe.


The flagship connect event of the year is the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (“GEC”) which on an annual basis gathers key thought leaders, researchers, entrepreneurs and practitioners in one place to move the entrepreneurial agenda forward.  From the 14th to 17th March, the 2016 Congress was hosted at Medellin, Colombia with a total of 6,500 people in attendance. In our capacity as a founding member of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (“GERN”) and a member of the Local Organising Committee of the Johannesburg 2017 GEC, the Foundation was there to contribute and pick up on the latest thoughts and developments in the entrepreneurial field.

Fredell Jacobs, participating in the annual GERN meeting
Fredell Jacobs, participating in the annual GERN meeting

But first we must start with Medellin. How did the previous murder capital of the world get to host a Global Entrepreneurship Congress? It has been termed the “Medellin Miracle”.  Through a focus on social transformation, “the point was to bring together a fragmented society and show respect for the most humble,” says Sergio Fajardo, the city’s mayor in 2004-07, and a collaborative approach between business, the municipality, NGOs, unions, universities and even gang members a new future for the city was mapped, resulting in Medellin beating out New York City and Tel Aviv to be announced the most Innovative City in the world in a 2013 global competition, before then going on to win the bid for the “world cup of entrepreneurship” to host the 2016 GEC.  It is a remarkable story of hope and inspiration for all those that believe change is possible. No wonder the city is known by locals as “The city of the Eternal Spring.”

In addition to the power of Medellin’s story the GEC did not disappoint with its gathering of some of the best minds in the entrepreneurial world. Here are five takeaways from the 2016 GEC:

  • Trust is the new differentiator

The opening key note of the congress introduced a new paradigm as to how enterprise should be understood, moving from a simple consumer economy to a relationship economy where trust is the driver. In this new world, “the business of next”, the theme of the congress, values such a generosity and transparency replace scarcity and secrecy.

  • Relationships before transactions

As part of this reimaging the business of next, the importance of relationships comes to the fore. As we move from a transactional understanding to a transformational one, this cannot be achieved without authentic relationships.  It is fascinating to witness how softer issues and values are becoming increasingly central to the future of enterprise. It confirms our confidence at the Foundation in the importance of values driven business including our investment in the Allan Gray Centre for Values Based Leadership.

  • The audience of one

One of the highlights of the congress was a talk by Bill Aulet of MIT on “What’s next in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Mindset.”  A key insight was the observation, “In entrepreneurship specificity wins, generality does not win – that is consulting!” As we understand more about the process of entrepreneurship it inevitably becomes more specific and we need to apply this principle to our development of entrepreneurs.  Aulet uses different “personas” which follow different development paths to acknowledge the uniqueness of each individual pursing their entrepreneurial journey.

A treasure chest of entrepreneurship development materials are available at Entrepreneurship Educators Forum

  • Innovation hides in strange places

Innovation does not always come from the places that we would most expect.  One fact that emerged is that the average age of high impact businesses is 17 years old.  Not quite the fast emerging technology companies we would have predicted.  Another entrepreneurship development programme, which describes itself as the “non accelerator” doesn’t look for high potential, only for coachability in participants.  It also uses no external coaches and takes no equity in the business, yet their alumni of 400 have generated revenues in excess of $1bn over the last four years. We need to be careful in our implicit assumptions about how innovation is expected to work, else we might be denying ourselves important opportunities for unexpected breakthroughs.

  • Data is king

There is a tidal wave of data coming our way around entrepreneurship.  Whether it be a study of 100’s of accelerators or the intention to map the entrepreneurial ecosystem of 100 cities, or efforts to standardise government data collection, we will soon have no place to hide in terms of assessing what works and doesn’t work in the field of entrepreneurship. This is the next frontier for entrepreneurship and it is to be celebrated.

Finally, for South Africa, the best news is that this festival of entrepreneurial learning and partnership is coming to Africa next year for the first time ever, when Johannesburg hosts the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March 2017.  We look forward to seeing you there as we build on the momentum of Medellin to showcase another part of the world capable of miracles of economic transformation.

The 2016/17 South African Budget Speech – An Entrepreneurial Perspective by Kevin Rodrigues

The 2016/17 South African Budget Speech – An Entrepreneurial Perspective by Kevin Rodrigues

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 9.21.38 AMKevin Rodrigues, a Candidate Fellow from UCT, was invited to participate in the 2016 Budget Speech competition. In this post Kevin shares the story.

On a mild Cape Town Friday afternoon my leisurely stroll through Claremont was interrupted by a phone call from On Point PR, Nedbank’s PR Agency. On Point PR is in charge of managing arrangements for the finalists in the Nedbank Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition. They requested that I write my own mini-budget by the end of that weekend. In my blissful ignorance of the magnitude of the task and elation at the prospect of being on radio, with haste I agreed to take the task on. With a considerable lack of sleep,  I submitted my rendition of what a 2016/2017 National Budget should look like by Monday’s deadline. This gave me but a taste of the mammoth task that faced Minister Gordhan as he sat down with the National Treasury to compile this year’s budget.

Considering South Africa’s contractionary monetary policy needed to quell the present inflationary environment, the fiscus tightly squeezed for resources, rising national debt servicing cost, crippling drought and commodity prices at a 10 year low; it is absolutely necessary to acknowledge how well the budget was crafted. One could feel the tension in parliament lift as the Minister reached the end of his speech where he brought to the fore the need for South Africa to double its efforts to implement the National Development Plan (NDP), focusing on building infrastructure, improving education funding and supporting South African business.

There were definitely portions of the budget that would appeal to South African entrepreneurs at the more established stage of business development. The Minister emphasised the need to build a strong mixed economy, and part of this process is the extension of South Africa’s public-private partnership programmes in infrastructure development projects. This is a necessary move from the government due to the prohibitive fiscal constraints, but also gives talented South Africans a foot in the door to launch renewable energy firms and build oil and gas infrastructure.

Another win for South African SMMEs was the focus on eradicating of corruption and the enforcement of the mandatory use of the new e-tender portal. Not only will this encourage government efficiency, but it will also give small players an opportunity to make competitive bids,  a greater chance against more established companies that may use their influence to sway decisions in their favour.

Along with this, the Minister emphasised interventions that encourage tourism, provide funding and assistance to entrepreneurs in high employment sectors such as the mining and manufacturing sector where we hope to see a rise in black industrialists, and extend funding for the continuation of the Phakisa oceans economy initiative, all of which are positive for South African entrepreneurs, and primarily support for new and established Small to Medium Enterprises (SMMEs). These interventions were capped with an emphasis on the need to reduce red tape at the regional and local level including the need to address business regulatory concerns as outlined in the NDP.

Indeed, this was a budget that was very positive for local entrepreneurs and I wish the government the best with the successful implementation of the outlined plans. There is, however, one area that I feel requires government attention, which was not addressed. Despite the government’s best efforts to support the South African venture capital cycle through the IDC, we still find that entrepreneurs are struggling for funding at the very early, high risk phase of business startups. This increases the barriers to enter and deters people from venturing out to experiment with ideas.

In the future I would like to see the government getting more involved with these very early stage ventures. The ideal would be to have every university establish a business incubator such as the University of Stellenbosch’s LaunchLab, which can be funded and supported by National Treasury. There should be opportunities for business development specialists to form medium venture capital firms that are solely government funded to support very early stage ventures at seed and startup phase.

Another ideal would be for the government to establish an entrepreneurial living grant that provides a reasonable living for a year or two to potential high impact entrepreneurs, so that they may free up time to attempt an entrepreneurial venture without worrying too much about whether their idea will generate cash in the short term. These grants should be given in collaboration with the private sector, purely based on financial and market viability of the ideas. The individuals given the grants should be closely monitored for integrity and viability. This, I believe, will do wonders to chip away the 80% failure rate that occurs in the first three years of startups.

Aside from this specific area, there are always other areas that can improve, such as implementing less restrictive labour regulations. There will also always be a need for greater funding in more industries where there is an abundance of opportunity. This has to been addressed in South Africa’s vital National Development Plan (NDP).

With all of this onus on the government and what they should do, it is absolutely necessary to look at ourselves as South African citizens and ask what our responsibility is. The government will never understand our own needs as well as we do, let us then take initiative to solve our own challenges wherever we can. Instead of asking the government to build our success, let us give them the opportunity to accelerate it.


From ordinary to extraordinary through an entrepreneurial mindset

From ordinary to extraordinary through an entrepreneurial mindset

In the latter part of my high school years, I had a conversation with my father about a fad that was heavily-influencing my classmates and causing them to make life (and body altering) decisions. That fad was body piercing and tattooing. My father listened silently as I justified my curiosity with the trend and tried to convince him that the visual expression of my individuality, through the modification of my physical attributes, would help me leave my mark on the world…and other less obvious places. My father refusal was expressed in the words: “Some of the most extraordinary people are the most ordinary looking.”

Let’s turn our attention from tattoos and body-piercing for a moment and instead explore how the Entrepreneurial Mindset can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

In a ground-breaking presentation, Gary Schoeniger, Founder of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, acknowledged that while there remain challenges in the way in which entrepreneurship is defined – both from an academic and economic development perspective – entrepreneurship begins with a mindset that exposes opportunity and ignites ambition. The Entrepreneurial Mindset is not formulaic; it is a consequence of the common logic, beliefs and assumptions that drive behaviour and transcend business school paradigms.

Schoeniger defines entrepreneurship, very simply, as opportunity discovery. He goes on to say that the Entrepreneurial Mindset inspires regardless of circumstance and that it is choices rather than circumstances that form the foundation for successful entrepreneurs. A point elaborated upon later.

Schoeniger’s convictions in fostering the Entrepreneurial Mindset are not based only on the growing economic justifications for entrepreneurship – such as that all net job growth results from entrepreneurship or that policy makers are increasingly turning their attention to the long-term benefits of entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneurial Mindset is indispensable in today’s rapidly-changing environment and gives us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves by connecting with the environment through the creation of something useful for others. The Entrepreneurial Mindset encourages us to start where we are, with what we have and who we know. It is rooted in the four processes, illustrated below.

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Here are some practical suggestions on how you can kick-start each step in the process.

  1. Interaction – get yourself out there. Join mailing lists, follow the tweets, blogs and social media posts of entrepreneurial networks; attend events; arrange visits to other entrepreneurs’ businesses
  1. Observation – open your eyes and take notes. After visiting different projects and businesses you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. It’s all about flattening your learning curve.
  1. Experimentation – or in the words of Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman – Just do it! Take action. Start where you are, with what you have and who you know.
  1. Adaptation – tweak it. After the wonderful (and not so wonderful) lessons you would have learnt from others in Step 2 (observation) and from your own experimentation (Step 3), take time to reflect. Keep what works and change what doesn’t. Ask others for input.

Understanding this process and the eight components of Schoeniger’s entrepreneurial curriculum, below, will unlock your Entrepreneurial Mindset.

  1. Power to choose. This is the most important component as all others flow from it. Realise that it is choices rather than circumstances that determine your success so choose the responses to your circumstances carefully.
  2. Recognise problems as solutions. Successful entrepreneurs solve other people’s problems
  3. Action. Test your ideas in the real world
  4. Entrepreneurship is about self-directed and life-long learning
  5. Financial literacy. Run your business close to the bone – especially in the early days.
  6. Build a brand that delivers and is reliable
  7. Build a success community made up of people who have been on or are on a similar journey as you.
  8. Persistence. It takes years to become an over-night success.

Unlocking the Entrepreneurial Mindset will move you from ordinary to extraordinary by letting you leave an indelible mark on the world rather than yourself. Unless, of course, you are a tattoo artist with a $1-bn global empire – in which case ink yourself away!


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