May, 2016 | Allan Gray Orbis Foundation
(Re-)Designing for Impact

(Re-)Designing for Impact

What elements of design shape our lives? Design is often seen as the mere beautification of the world, but there are in fact five elements of design that determine the functioning of the world we live in:

  • Spatial Design
  • Systems Design
  • Product Design
  • Service Design
  • Communication Design

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Design is a forward looking exercise where we ask – what might be? Design therefore forms part of every element of our lives. How do we then impact the world through entrepreneurial, responsible design? And how can this be done in a way that will bring transformation, justice, dignity, equity and sustainability to various spheres in our country?

A relatively new field of study, biomimicry is starting to answer these questions. Biomimicry can be described as a whole new consciousness, a multidisciplinary approach to design, problem solving and most importantly to adding value.  Biomimicry means to copy life. Contrary to popular belief, it does not only copy the elements of nature, but it turns to the elements of nature to design for function and purpose. This means that we need to reframe our questions. Instead of asking for example ‘how do we build a dam’, we should be asking ‘how do we capture water?’. And why is it that palm trees survive a Tsunami and yet houses are left in a pile of rubble?

Those in the field of biomimicry will say that nothing we create is new, since nature has already found a solution to it. How we apply the learning, the design – that is new.  The deep principles of design that nature provides are the following:

  • Adapt to changing conditions
  • Be locally attuned and responsive
  • Evolve to survive
  • Use life friendly chemistry
  • Be resource efficient
  • Integrate development with growth

The Foundation believes that entrepreneurial mindset can change and impact our context – socially, politically and economically. This is a mindset that can reshape and redesign the world that we live in. We therefore cultivate entrepreneurs by exposing them to a way of thinking which could lead to them potentially redesigning their spaces, systems, products or services. It is this type of questioning that has led to the reimagination of the system of transport (Uber), living (AirBnB), information sharing (Twitter), and most significantly political life (Apartheid).

Challenges we face in the 21st Century require us to rethink the world. We moved from two billion people in 1927 to seven billion in 2011. This alone has a wave of implications to the way we work and live.  According to Frost and Sullivan the top 10 mega trends to watch for in 2025 are as follow. These require design and us applying an entrepreneurial mindset so that we shape a world which honours our children and our future:

  • Urbanization: Mega Cities, Mega Regions, Mega Corridors, Smart Cities
  • Electric-Mobility
  • Social Trends: Geo Socialization, Generation-Y and Reverse Brain Drain
  • SPACE JAM: Congested Satellite Orbits
  • World War 3: Cyber Warfare
  • RoboSlaves
  • Virtual World: Fluid Interfaces and Haptic Technology (The Science of Touch)
  • Innovating to Zero! : Zero Emission Technologies
  • Emerging Transportation Corridors
  • Health, Wellness and Well-Being

If you are working in the field of design or in any of the trends listed above, please share how you have applied design to recreate the life in which we live.

For more on biomimicry, go to Biomimicry South Africa at



Selecting for Entrepreneurial Success – an insight into the Foundation’s selection process

Selecting for Entrepreneurial Success – an insight into the Foundation’s selection process


2012 Fellowship Selection Camp
2012 Fellowship Selection Camp

In 2012, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation initiated a process to formalise its selection processes for Scholarship Selection at Grade 6 (Allan Gray Scholars) and Fellowship Selection at Grade 12 and first year university (Candidate Allan Gray Fellows). This led to the creation of so called “Success Profiles” that captured the selection requirements at each stage of the Foundation entrepreneurial development pipeline, culminating in the development of a Success Profile or Profiles of a High Impact Responsible Entrepreneur as described by the Foundation.

“A principled individual who creates and / or personally owns all or part of an enterprise that offers a product, service or business model that is highly innovative, differentiated, and scalable which results in adding substantial economic value through offering the public great value for money and in doing so, results in the creation of meaningful jobs, profitable enterprise and stakeholder value.”

The Success Profile methodology provides a framework through which an applicant can be considered from a holistic perspective. Taking a holistic approach to assessing an individual is the best means of predicting future performance

The Success Profiles developed and created by the Foundation capture the combination of knowledge, experience, competencies, performance standards, personal attributes and measures for potential that describe the targeted and articulated set of expectations for Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows. This will enable the Foundation to align its selection and development programmes.

Success Profile Objectives

The Success Profile methodology has three main objectives: 1) To develop and validate a beneficiary Success profile and validate the Foundation’s beneficiary success benchmarks at Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows, 2) To align the Selection benchmarks of the targeted beneficiaries to the expected future performance and 3) To review the current beneficiary development programme and its implementation in relation to the Selection benchmarks and Success Profiles.

Success Profile Methodology

The Success Profile Methodology is supported by research which shows that taking a holistic approach to assessing an individual is the best means of predicting future performance. Traditionally, organisations mainly focus on competencies, experience and technical skills when selecting for specific roles and do not include areas such as values, interests, personality and emotional maturity. Taking this holistic approach to assessing an individual is therefore a much more valid and reliable method of predicting future performance.

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The specific methodology followed in reviewing and refining the criteria specified for each dimension of the Success Profile can be summarised as follows:

  1. Start with the end in Mind. Clearly define the Success Profile for a High Impact Entrepreneur
  2. Separate long term performance drivers from short term performance drivers.Short term performance was defined as successful completion of the programme and long term realising the vision of High Impact Entrepreneurship.
  3. Separate trainable and non-trainable components

In applying the approach as described above, it was imperative to the success of the overall programme to clearly define the profile of a High Impact Entrepreneur as it becomes impossible to identify markers for long term performance without a profile to which it is linked.

Since adopting the Success profile Methodology in 2012, a number of changes and refinements have been implemented across the Foundation’s three primary programmes, such as the refinement of the application form scoring criteria, the development of parallel assessment activities across selection phases, and incorporation of new psychometric tests for measurement.

All this work has resulted in the Foundation having the following seven Success profiles:

  1. Scholarship Selection at Grade 6,
  2. Candidate Fellows Selection at Grade 12 and 1st Year University,
  3. Acceptance into the Fellowship at Admissions into the Association,
  4. High Impact Entrepreneur profile 1 – Conceptualisation of Ideas,
  5. High Impact Entrepreneur profile 2 – Securing Capital and entering the market through a start-up,
  6. High Impact Entrepreneur profile 3 – Managing the stress of Organisational Growth, and
  7. High Impact Entrepreneur profile 4 – The Conductor / Architect who can orchestrate profile 1 to 3.

This has certainly set a solid foundation in terms of Success Profile methodology, however, this approach requires continual refinement and improvement in order for the Foundation to remain cutting edge. Future projects involving the Success Profile Methodology includes a review and critical analysis of all the Success Profiles adopted, reviewing the comprehensiveness of the three programmatic Success Profiles against the desired outcomes specified for both short term and long term performance, reviewing the degree of alignment between the three programmatic Success Profiles, ensuring that all criteria specified meets best practice guidelines and finally to ensure that all criteria specified is research based.

By Carl Herman

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Celebrating 10 Years

Celebrating 10 Years

The Foundation celebrated its 10-year anniversary at the end of 2015. To mark this achievement we hosted a celebratory dinner.. The event was held in Johannesburg, with the Foundation’s beneficiaries, Talent (Foundation staff) and Board members in attendance.

The guests were addressed by the Chairman of the Board, Futhi Mtoba, who had served on the Board of Trustees for 10 years and finished her tenure as Chainman in April 2016. See more details about her contribution here:

Fellows reflected on the significance of the Foundation in their lives. Siphesihle Kala told of how she gained courage to launch into entrepreneurship, Loretta Magagula and Sechaba Selialia shared how being in this community had made them bigger thinkers and more entrepreneurial, while Lwandle Gaga and Mangaliso Nxasana described how the Foundation had inspired them to be best they can be. Sabelwa Matikinca, a beneficiary who has journeyed with the Foundation for the last nine years – as a Scholar and Candidate Allan Gray Fellow – shared how the opportunity had changed her and her family’s lives.

AGO(16.04.23 pm) 496Zimkhitha Peter, the Head of Programmes, who has served the Foundation for more than eight years, paid tribute to CEO, Anthony Farr for leading the organisation with integrity and courage. She noted that it had also been just over 10 years since Anthony left a promising career in finance, to make the intentions of Mr Gray possible. He has grown an organisation that today is 60 Talent strong and has touched hundreds of lives.




Words fall short of expressing how profound the journey over the last decade has been. The following experiences, captured on film, might do a better job of it:

Leaving Her Footprint in the African Soil

Leaving Her Footprint in the African Soil

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.20.02 AMKholofelo Mashego grew up with a desire to see people not being defined by their past struggles. Her passion for social justice started at a very young age – even though she didn’t quite know that it was called “social justice”. After a while Kholofelo also started asking questions about sustainable change – what it looks like and what a journey towards it would look like.

These attitudes and questions led her to the development sector where she worked with young people for a number of years. Her efforts were driven by the belief that “development work … can never and should never be planned or executed without the young minds of a nation.” Now her position in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation ensures that she continues living out this belief. As a Scholar Development Officer she helps young people from financially needy homes become the voices, hopes and faces of sustainable change. “For me this is one of the many steps towards social justice,” says Kholofelo.

The Foundation’s Scholarship Programme aims to develop the untapped potential within young learners so that they can become eligible for the Foundation’s Fellowship Programme. Her role, she explains, is to groom that young person by developing their personal mastery skills during their high school career and ensuring that through the programme offering they develop the necessary entrepreneurial mindset and are able to successfully transition into university.

Kholofelo recognises that each Scholar comes with a story that is reflective of the South African reality. They come broken, they come as adults denied the chance to be a child and they come carrying the dream of a better future for their families. In their brokenness there lies hope; in their adult-like minds lie the ability to innovate. She believes that her role at the Foundation is to “ensure that the Scholars we have in our programme know how to articulate their generation’s struggle and [become] the solutions to those struggles through entrepreneurship.”

What drew Kholofelo to the Foundation is a dream that is also driving her to leave her mark or as she puts it, “[her] footprint in the African soil.” When she first read about the Foundation and saw all the YouTube videos about what the Foundation’s activities and beneficiaries, she couldn’t deny wanting to become part of such a long-term legacy. She recognised the Foundation as being a place where one can see transformation happen before one’s eyes and live out a South African dream.

For Kholofelo that dream is to one day see South Africa as a country where even the ordinary person’s story matters, where quality education is not a matter of affordability and where families no longer need to send their children out to beg on the street and become invisible to the successful eye. She wants to be part of a South Africa where the world’s greatest inventors and solution makers are birthed, where entrepreneurship is valued and people’s dignity is restored through work. “Through the Foundation I have a chance to influence the South African story one Scholar at a time.”

Learning from Older and Wiser Versions of Themselves

Learning from Older and Wiser Versions of Themselves

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 8.42.38 AMA Scholars’ Development Camp was held from the 1st to the 4th of April this year. Both the Grade 8s and 9s within the Scholarship Programme spent the weekend together at Haboniem Campsite in Hermanus. The camp provided the ideal setting for working on the Scholars’ entrepreneurial mindsets. They visited various sites to learn about the day-to-day lives of real-life entrepreneurs and worked with tutors to improve their study and reading skills. They also listened to presentations by Candidate Fellows and entrepreneurs and gave presentations themselves.

Imitha Gala, one of the Scholars described the experience as follows: “It was a significant weekend … certain people were called to help us with our academics and our reading speed and we did all the activities in groups, which taught us team co-operation, fast thinking and confidence. I learnt that being an entrepreneur is not easy because you will have challenges along the way, but the only way to overcome them is if you have passion for what you are doing and persevere through it all and … [ask] for help when you need it. I also learnt that being an entrepreneur is not only about sitting in your office and being on your computer but also about exploring the world around you, coming up with ideas and doing some presentations to let others know about what y ou are doing. The [different speakers’] presentations really stood out for me … It was very fascinating to listen to those confident speakers and their wonderful ideas.”


Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 8.44.12 AMSammi Smith, also a Scholar had the following to say about the experience: “… Many [of us, the Grade 8 and 9 Scholars] met for the first time at the camp. We did countless presentations, which was tiring, but when we had eventually perfected them or at least showed a great improvement, it was all worth it. We got a chance to interact with the Candidate Fellows, some of whom had been Scholars too. [They] understood what we were going through and they gave some great advice on how to survive high school; this was my highlight of the camp. It was a remarkable weekend because it was not just [about getting] training in the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. It became a camp where we as the Grade 8s and 9s had a chance to engage with older and wiser versions of ourselves. I learnt so much at the camp. It added realness to my dreams of becoming a Candidate Fellow and entrepreneur.”

by Imitha Gala and Sammi Smith

The End of A Decade and The End of An Era – Bidding our Chairman Farewell

The End of A Decade and The End of An Era – Bidding our Chairman Farewell

AGO(16.04.22) 463It is with some sadness and almost disbelief that we come to the end of an era with our Chairman of the Board, Futhi Mtoba, finishing her final allowed term as a trustee.  She was one of the founding trustees of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and the last woman standing, so to speak. After serving a full decade we bid farewell to her at the end of April.

Futhi has overseen the Foundation’s growth from its first 20 beneficiaries all those years ago to the current pipeline of nearly 750 high-potential individuals at all stages of life from attending high school through to crafting careers and heading up enterprises. There can be few better ways to capture her seminal contribution to the Foundation than to reflect on the reality that it is very difficult to even imagine the Foundation without her wisdom and leadership.

We have been fortunate as an institution to be served by a person of such character, energy and determination. There is a powerful dynamic created when the overall leader of the Foundation serves as such a significant role model for the values and impact to which we aspire for our Allan Gray Fellows. Futhi’s entire life has been about pioneering new possibilities, whether it be in the accounting field or, more recently, in education. We could not have found a more appropriate leader as we sought to pioneer greater entrepreneurial capacity in South Africa for the common good.

We wish her well as she concludes her Foundation journey but know that she will always be part of our family. The impact of her legacy will continue to live on in the endeavours of our Allan Gray Fellows.

Diary of an Admitted Fellow – The 2016 Admission to the Association of Allan Gray Fellows

Diary of an Admitted Fellow – The 2016 Admission to the Association of Allan Gray Fellows

Packed like a sardine on a Mango aeroplane, I awaited take off with a childlike excitement for the Association Admissions Event that was taking place on Saturday the 23rd of April. My eager anticipation was interrupted by a train of thoughts – surely it is only a matter of time until Mango will “go vrot” (start to rot). Their service was slow, it cost R65 for a chicken sandwich that wasn’t guaranteed to have chicken and the flight attendant was old enough to make me feel guilty for not standing up and offering her my seat.

This is a common occurrence for a Fellow – spotting inefficiencies and thinking of potential solutions has been engrained into the way we view the world. In some ways the impact that the Foundation has had on our lives is quite obvious. There have been endless opportunities, invaluable friendships, quality events and inspiring mentorships. Yet, the most indelible mark left by the Foundation has come in a less obvious form, that of changed paradigms.

Our stories first became entwined with the Foundation’s back in 2011. By the time I took my seat on that Mango flight, it had already been four years since that weekend of intensive Candidate Fellow selection at the Cradle of Mankind. Our admission into the Association of Allan Gray Fellows signalled the ending of the first action-packed chapter of being a Candidate Fellow as well as the beginning of a new chapter as fully fledged Fellows. This progression of chapters was blissfully celebrated at the Sandton Holiday Inn. Many parents and Talent (Foundation staff members) were present to witness the jubilant occasion of being admitted into the Association of Allan Gray Fellows.

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The ceremony was kicked off by a beautiful and energetic performance of Pata Pata by our very own Nkateko Manganye. I could hardly keep from singing along but politely considered my fellow guests and decided against subjecting them to sounds of a walrus giving birth. There were also joyous reflections on how far we had all come and masterfully crafted video, capturing our Foundation journey, including snippets right from our very first interviews. Our parents were visibly emotional, bursting with pride and a sense of hope for the future of our country. We were also able to thank the Foundation through heartfelt speeches for their immeasurable influence on our lives.

AGO(16.04.23 am) 153Anthony’s Farr speech was particularly moving and sprinkled with thought-provoking stories. With chills running up my spine and tears rolling down my cheeks, he ended his speech with an extract from Robert Frost’s poem – the same poem was presented to us at our very first orientation event, back when our Foundation stories began:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less travelled by

And that has made all the difference.



What a memorable day. What a memorable journey. We are now Fellows.

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by Dominic Koening

More Than Just A Weekend Away

More Than Just A Weekend Away

IMG_3232What happens when you take a couple of 20-year-olds in their second year of university to Hermanus and ask them to talk about two things: significance and community? You get a mixed bag of cold showers, constructive conflict, creative collaboration, moments of clarity about oneself and a deeper appreciation of and desire to impact community.

Between the 1st and 3rd of April 2016, groggy Year Equip Candidate Fellows travelled to the Habonim Campsite. Aside from the excitement that travelling usually brings, there was also the anticipation of seeing the entire Year Equip group (from all over South Africa) again – after almost a year. In the words of Pfano Nevhutalu, a Year Equip, “It was refreshing … I felt more connected and integrated into the Foundation community.”

A key focus during this Camp Connect would be discussing, understanding and learning to life one of the Foundation’s Five Pillars, the Spirit of Significance. We would learn how crucial connecting would be to future socially impactful entrepreneurs. That is, connecting with ourselves, our fellow Candidate Fellows and the greater community, both within the Foundation and the greater society.

And thus we embarked on a three-day ideation and relationship building experience. We developed a camp programme for the Grade 8 and 9 Scholars that would ease their transition from primary school to high school and inspire them to eventually become Candidate Fellows as well – all in a day’s work! After a rather fun and successful interaction with the Scholars, we had to put our thinking caps back on for the next objective – working on our Legacy Project. After hours of working, putting egos aside and midnight reconfigurations of the democratic institution of voting, we finally agreed on and pitched the Legacy Project we would undertake in the next year.


With any collaborative effort comes the temptation of forgetting that one is dealing with fellow human beings. It was quite appropriate then that one of our last sessions was dedicated to sharing our defining moments – the stories of moments that turned our lives around. It granted us the opportunity to connect on a more empathetic level and realise that we are all deserving of greatness.

Despite or perhaps because of the constructive conflicts, late nights and freezing morning showers by the sea, we gained a better understanding of what the Spirit of Significance encompasses: getting to know yourself in your entirety and how you can use yourself to empower others.

by  Foyin Ogunrombi & Olerato Mogomotsi

Resist that calling. It’s probably not your purpose in life

Resist that calling. It’s probably not your purpose in life

Fred Swaniker_1Have you ever wondered: “why was I put on this earth?”. For a long time, I asked myself this question as I tried to make sense of the world and my place in it. I was born in Ghana, but left at the age of four and moved to a different African country every four years until I was eighteen. I didn’t grow up rich, but wasn’t desperately poor either. I had 3 meals a day, a roof over my head, and received most of my pre-university education in government schools. My parents didn’t get divorced, and I generally had a happy, healthy childhood with my three siblings.

After high school, I won a scholarship to attend Macalester College in Minnesota and then worked for McKinsey across Africa, who later sponsored my MBA at Stanford. I often wondered why, among all the hundreds of millions of young people in Africa, I had been so lucky to get these opportunities, especially when there was so much poverty, hunger, and general despair among my fellow Africans. Each time I saw someone begging in the street, I wanted to do something. Each time I saw an unhealthy child who couldn’t get decent healthcare, I started thinking that perhaps I should use my Stanford MBA to start a chain of healthcare clinics for children.

But soon I realized there was no way that I could tackle all these problems in my lifetime, and I frequently got frustrated and confused by what I was supposed to do with my life. Then in 2006, I was nominated to receive the Echoing Green Fellowship as ‘one of the 16 best emerging social entrepreneurs in the world’. During the interview process, my co-founder Chris Bradford and I were asked about our ‘moment of obligation’ — the specific moment when we decided to quit our jobs and embark on our journey to start the African Leadership Academy. Being asked that question helped me to crystallize why I had been put on this earth.

You are defined by your ‘Moments of obligation’

Every now and then, we come to a fork in the road that requires us to either stay on our current life path, or change course and do something radically different. These ‘moments of obligation’ are usually caused by a sense of outrage about some injustice, wrong-doing, or unfairness we see in society or by an opportunity that can revolutionize the world and benefit us personally. The former is what Mother Theresa probably saw every day in the slums of Calcutta and the latter is what Bill Gates must have felt when he saw the opportunity to develop software for mini-computers in the mid-1970’s.

You should ignore 99% of your moments of obligation

No matter how guilty it makes you feel, you should ignore 99% of these moments of obligation. You should ignore them because you have been put on earth for a purpose, and each time you go down a path that is not your purpose, you are taking time away from preparing for your actual calling. It is in rare instances — perhaps just 1% of these moments of obligation — that you should actually follow the new path you are being drawn to. So how do you know when it is indeed that ‘1% moment’?

Ask yourself three big questions

Each time you are faced with a moment of obligation, you should ask yourself three big questions. First: ‘Is it big enough?’ I believe that those who have been fortunate enough to receive good education, be healthy, have great work experiences and powerful networks should not be solving small problems for society. You were lucky enough to have these opportunities so you could help others. You should be solving the biggest problems for the world, not small ones. So if it’s not big enough, pass on it. It’s not your purpose in life.

Second: ‘Am I uniquely positioned, more than almost anyone else in the world, to make this happen?’ Look back at experiences you’ve had — some due to circumstances beyond your control, and some due to deliberate choices you made — to see if the experiences prepared you better than almost anyone else in the world to pursue the tentative mission. If it is absolutely clear that you are better prepared than most because of these patterns you notice, then this may just be that 1% of the time when you should follow the new path.

Third: ‘Am I truly passionate?’ Impacting the world is hard — so if you’re not really passionate about the issue/cause at hand, your energy will fizzle out. You should use the ‘sleepless night test’ for this one. If the idea/issue you want to pursue is consuming you so much that you can’t sleep at night, then it might just qualify as that 1% idea.

If the answer to these three big questions collectively is not a resounding ‘yes’, then you should ignore the calling. It’s not your destiny. If, on the other hand you reflect and find a clear ‘yes’ for each question, then, and only then should you step up and pursue this calling.

How the three big questions have shaped my life

Two years ago, I was faced with a moment of obligation. I had been running the African Leadership Academy for ten years, and was disturbed by the fact that we could only admit 4% of applicants and had to send 80% of our graduates to study at top universities outside of Africa. I wondered why we couldn’t have our own ‘Ivy League’ on the continent. And then one day, an idea came to me about how we could leverage changes in technology and innovative pedagogy like peer to peer learning to build the ‘university of the future’ in Africa. Initially I tried to ignore it. I was tired of being an entrepreneur, of going through all the stresses of cash-flow issues, operational challenges, and people issues. But the idea kept nagging at me.

So I applied my three questions: Is it big enough? The vision was to build a network of 25 brand new universities across Africa called ‘African Leadership University’ (ALU). Each campus would have 10,000 students — i.e. 250,000 students at a time. Over fifty-years, this would produce 3 million leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists and game-changers in almost any imaginable field for Africa. ALU’s graduates could be the ones to lead the continent out of poverty and desperation. The need for this solution was massive. In Nigeria alone, 1.7m students graduate each year from high school but local universities can only absorb 400,000 of them.

What I had in mind would produce graduates with skills more relevant for the 21st century than most universities in the world today produce. And we would be able to offer this education at 10-20% of the cost of top US universities today. Pioneering this fresh approach to university education in a unique and imaginative way would have ripple effects not just in Africa but for the entire world.

The ALU vision would ultimately require at least $5 billion dollars in capital to pull off. So this definitely ticked the box of ‘big enough’.

Am I uniquely positioned to do this? As I reflected on this question, I realized that very few people in the world were better prepared to do this than I was. How many people had lived and worked in ten African countries and travelled to over twenty-five and could therefore understand the continent’s needs? How many people had launched the African Leadership Network — an association of 2,000 of the most prominent leaders in Africa — who could help pull this off? How many had been the headmaster of a school in Botswana at the age of 18, and then gone on to launch African Leadership Academy, developing a feeder network of 5,000 high schools in 48 countries that could feed this university with applicants? How many young African entrepreneurs had been able to raise $100m on the global market for their previous ventures? As I connected the dots, I realized that the last 15 years had been preparing me with the expertise, know-how, and relationships to pull off this much bigger feat. Raising $100m had been the ‘training wheels’ I needed to raise $5billlion. Building a world-class pre-university institution on a small scale had been practice to launch something on a far larger scale at the tertiary level. Launching the African Leadership Network had given me access to influential people who could help navigate all the regulatory hurdles we would surely meet as we brought this new model to life.

Am I passionate? Initially I tried to run away from the ALU idea. I pitched it to several friends and urged them to take it on. But I couldn’t stop thinking about its potential for changing Africa — the continent I loved so much. I could also see how it would revolutionize tertiary education on a global scale. Its game-changing potential excited me beyond measure. So it definitely passed the ‘sleepless night’ test.

With answers to all three questions a resounding ‘yes’, I realized that the calling to launch ALU was one of those 1% moments. I therefore stepped down as the day-to-day CEO of African Leadership Academy and have poured my energy over the last two years into African Leadership University.

Today, we have opened two ALU campuses. One is in Mauritius known as the African Leadership College and the second is known as African Leadership University (Rwanda). A campus in Nigeria is soon to come. We received 6,000 applications in 60 days for our first 180 slots (making us one of the most selective universities in the world from inception). We are on course to reach 1,000 students next year. We recently launched a revolutionary new MBA program to develop the leadership skills of African professionals. The model is working. We’re creating innovators and entrepreneurs in a refreshing new way and at a fraction of the cost of existing world-class universities. Some of the world’s best employers like McKinsey, IBM, Coca-Cola, and Swiss Reinsurance are partnering with us, and some of the savviest investors in the world are funding our cause. It’s going to be a very long journey. It will take 25–30 years before the 25 campuses educating 250,000 students at a time are fully realized. But I finally know why I was put on earth — to develop these future leaders for Africa and to reshape education for young people all around the world.

So next time you feel a calling, I urge you to resist it. It’s unlikely to be your purpose. Ask yourself the three big questions: Is it big enough? Are you uniquely positioned to make it happen? Are you really passionate about it (i.e. does it pass the ‘sleepless night’ test)? If the answer to these three questions is yes, then you should pursue the calling. Otherwise, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s all part of a plan that will reveal itself someday.

About the Author

Fred Swaniker is the founder of the African Leadership ‘Group’ — an ecosystem of organizations that includes African Leadership Academy,African Leadership Network, African Leadership University and Africa Advisory Group. Collectively, these institutions aim to transform Africa by identifying, developing, and connecting three million game-changing leaders for Africa by 2060.


The Role of the Association

The Role of the Association

AGO(16.04.24) 442 copyThe Association of Allan Gray Fellows is the community of Fellows who have successfully completed the four year university based Fellowship, and its goals are to support Fellow endeavour with the purpose of reduction of poverty and a more equitable South African society.

It is the belief of the entire Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (“Foundation”), that in order to achieve this purpose, we need to “Activate responsible entrepreneurship for the common good …through realising the power of the Association … a community of highly engaged individuals driven by a clear common purpose.” – CEO Anthony Farr.

In light of this, the objectives of the Association community have been stated as a badge of honour, a unifying responsibility that is keenly felt by all members. “The overall objective of the Association is to alleviate poverty through creating responsible high-impact entrepreneurs in Southern Africa” – Mbali Sikakana, Association President.

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Association Community
The journey for some of our community begins as early as High School – brought into the Foundation’s curricula through the Scholarship programme – before the majority of our Association members are selected for the Fellowship programme for their four years of university study. The Fellowship aims to develop well-educated, balanced and responsible citizens, who are selected for – and coached to improve – their entrepreneurial competencies required to successfully achieve high-impact.


The Association began in 2008 with the first group of Allan Gray Fellows being admitted into the Association of Allan Gray Fellows. This group was made up of just eight individuals, and now in 2016 the Association has grown to just shy of 300. Once an Allan Gray Fellow enters the Association, they will remain a member of this community for life.

Role of Association

The Association serves to foster and maintain the relationship between the Foundation and the Fellows, as well as to further develop Fellows through new learning opportunities, a connected and functional community and an environment wherein responsible entrepreneurship is given the best chance to succeed.

The Association is co-led by the Fellows and the Foundation. Every two years a new Executive Committee of Fellows (“ExCo”) is voted in by the entire community. The ExCo identifies and creates a variety of world-class opportunities for the Fellows’ entrepreneurial development, and fosters a functional community striving to grow together for the greater good. In order to best achieve this, the Association’s activities are split across three main focus areas – Ventures, Community and Leadership.

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The Association’s primary role: to equip and support Fellows to start and grow high-impact enterprises. As Fellows with work experience, Association members typically require support in their entrepreneurship endevours, particularly when it means the loss of stable income to take the risk. The Ventures Committee’s role is to support members through all stages of business development and indeed the full business lifecycle. The needs of the Association will change over time as Fellow businesses grow and mature; but currently the focus is on start-up support – delivered through a world-class pre-Accelerator programme called IVC (Ideation, Validation and Creation), as well as a fulltime Start-up Accelerator.

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Starting a business is hard. Starting a business in isolation is near impossible. Part of the role of the Association is to ensure a strong network is built between Fellows, with a shared vision to foster genuine support between members through our diversity and meaningful relationships.




The Leadership portfolio provides life-long learning opportunities and professional development for Fellows, and is also tasked with maintaining Association focus on responsible entrepreneurship. This awareness of societal ills, poverty and inequality and the belief that business should be used as a force for good is what differentiates the community.




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