Challenges for Female Entrepreneurs  (Part II) by Margie Worthington-Smith

Challenges for Female Entrepreneurs (Part II) by Margie Worthington-Smith

The key factor

The key factor of the need for good startup skills is found to be very low in both the GEI and FEI research and the result is that the opportunity for South Africa to be an effective entrepreneurial nation is severely stunted.   There is lack of highly educated business owners (particularly in the female-focused research).  Skill Perception measures the percentage of the population who believe they have adequate startup skills. Research shows that most people in developing countries think they have the skills needed to start a business and this is borne out in the findings for South Africa, but their skills usually were acquired through workplace trial and error in relatively simple business activities.

The quality of human resources is crucial in the pursuit of becoming a winning nation and so a critical feature of a startup with high growth potential is the entrepreneur’s level of education. In this research the “Highly Educated Owners” variable captures the quality of entrepreneurs’ academic preparation.  Sadly, for South Africa and female entrepreneurs particularly it shows up as one of the weakest factors.

As South Africa grapples with its tertiary education battles around free education, access and the requisite standards required to be accepted, both research findings show that if we don’t get this right, the vital role that postsecondary education should play in teaching and developing entrepreneurial skills will create an even wider gap for female entrepreneurs and, in fact, all young South Africans.   According to the research, the fact that today there are 150 million students enrolled in some kind of education beyond high school, a 53 percent increase in less than a decade means that people all over the world see education as a pathway out of poverty.   Unless South Africa deals with its issues around primary, secondary and tertiary education, we will be more and more behind the curve.

South Africa is also very low in the research findings on the “Human Capital” factor.  It is obvious but borne out by research that the prevalence of high-quality human capital is vitally important for ventures that are highly innovative and require an educated, experienced and healthy workforce to continue to grow.  This links closely with the education issues mentioned earlier where it is also obvious that a venture with high growth potential requires an entrepreneur with a high level of education.

The institutional variable “Staff Training” is a country’s level of investment in business training and employee development. As we know in SA we have had the good intent though the SETA system to provide access to training, but anyone who has tried to work with the SETA system will also know that it has not reached its intended impact by any means.  There should be much greater investment in employees because the pay off is the increase in employee quality and this has a knock-on effect for the potential for entrepreneurial activity.

Insufficient internet access

The FEI research further identified that generally women were able to recognise opportunities, had a perception of the need for skills (even if they did not have them) and knew of entrepreneurs.  Contrasted with this is the fact that women in South Africa have poor internet access generally (a serious institutional factor that must be fixed) and limited networks.

Sadly, women in South Africa do not have access to sufficient internet capacity and neither do they network sufficiently to be effective entrepreneurs.  It is a known fact that entrepreneurs who have better networks are more successful and can identify more viable opportunities.  They are also better able to access appropriate resources.  Although the research shows that on the individual level women do “know an entrepreneur”, the institutional-level indicator, which looks at the level of internet usage in women and their degree of LinkedIn connectedness, shows that in South Africa women entrepreneurs lag in their ability to unlock opportunities through networking and especially internet networking.

In other words, South African women have the desire, but once again the institutional factors outside of their control do not empower them to act on this desire.  The internet opens up new opportunities for entrepreneurial networking and has the potential to eliminate cultural, geographic and gendered social constraints that have in many cases limited women’s access to information and resources.

The graph from the GEI 2016 Report shows South Africa in relation to other African countries (Angola and Uganda) in terms of the 14 elements that make up the Index.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 8.14.41 AM

An enabling mindset

The enabling factors for any entrepreneur to flourish have been widely discussed and they range from friendly policy environments, access to finance, support structures, human capital and markets among others.  However, in the context of the female entrepreneur the factor that has the most impact perhaps is that of culture or, more specifically, the degree of patriarchy in the context within which she operates.   This has a direct impact on the critical factor of mindset.

At a recent IEF conference that I attended in Cape Town, an inspirational entrepreneurial role model, Hedda Pahlson-Moller, who is an Angel Investor, a Venture Philanthropist, an Entrepreneur and a Social Impact Catalyst said in her address that she had had a wonderful advantage having been brought up in Sweden and the USA.  Particularly in Sweden she said that growing up she experienced no sexism and no prejudicial lens through which her aspirations were viewed.  As such she never even considered that she might require permission from men or not be as good as a man.  Without that requirement to wait for permission which builds an inherent, subconscious inferiority complex, she went ahead courageously and without fear of derision and conquered many a male-dominated environment.

The lesson to be learned from this is that so many of our environments, including sadly South Africa, are significantly male-dominated.  The inability to lean in, break the glass ceiling and be equal is not only imprinted on women’s DNA but also bred into the psyche of men.  This has the knock-on effect of creating an inferior, permission-seeking mindset in women. An insight from Hedda was to move from trying to be gender blind or gender neutral in her work to being gender positive.  Given the fact that we lack that mindset, it is no wonder that we still make the distinction between entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurs.

Courageous commitment

So – to end with the continuation of the pillar theme, the Alan Gray Orbis Foundation itself has a pillar that is critical to the success of the female entrepreneur – and one that should be fostered, cultivated and pursued with vigour and passion by all who seek to improve the South African female entrepreneurial environment.  For the Foundation this courageous commitment is defined as having the courage and dedication to continue, realising that applying consistent commitment has a way of overcoming.

So let us in South Africa have the courage to challenge the institutions that control our education and access to information, the personal dedication to develop our own skills and the constant commitment to creating gender positive opportunities thus unlocking all of SA’s human potential so that all of us can participate in this race and thereby improve our collective performance.

Challenges for Female Entrepreneurs  (Part I) by Margie Worthington-Smith

Challenges for Female Entrepreneurs (Part I) by Margie Worthington-Smith

The fact that we still make a distinction between entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurs is a striking sign of how little progress the world has made. If the world were a truly equal place there would be no reason to make such a distinction.  Some of the factors that conspire to make us perpetuate such inequality are obvious but there are also not-so-obvious ones.

To start, let’s look to the outliers – those women who have been able to  “lean in” and be accepted on merit as successful.  Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook had this to say about equality:

“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes. I believe that this would be a better world. The laws of economics and many studies of diversity tell us that if we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve.

Legendary investor Warren Buffett has stated generously that one of the reasons for his great success was that he was competing with only half of the population. The Warren Buffetts of my generation are still largely enjoying this advantage.

When more people get in the race, more records will be broken. And the achievements will extend beyond those individuals to benefit us all … Conditions for all women will improve when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voice to their needs and concerns.”

The most obvious factor

Let us now name the most obvious difference between men and women.  Women are equipped to give birth.  Many do and when they do they take on a role that is totally consuming both physically and emotionally over a long period of time.  While men naturally have a role to play in this dynamic it is a fact that this additional responsibility minimally if not rarely influences their work commitments. In contrast, it requires of women to either exit the workplace race (briefly or forever) or participate in it with an additional facet not required by men.

There are many delightful anecdotes by working women of the challenges that they face in the juggling act of home and work.  The practical reality is that many women exit the race because the energy required is overwhelming.  The workplace is not accommodating of mothers and to try to take on leadership responsibilities while rearing children requires compromise one way or the other.  Those women who are able to get to a position of leadership are positioned in the public eye (and more importantly other female eyes) as role models.  Without these role models other women cannot see the possibilities.  However, this leadership very often comes at a cost and certainly takes courage and resilience.

Factors specific to South Africa

How does South Africa match up to the rest of the world in terms of the courage of our women entrepreneurs and what are the factors that are holding us back?

One only has to have scant knowledge of South Africa’s history to know that small a country as we are, we have for a long time punched way above our weight. We have an enviable infrastructure and have unlocked remarkable natural resources making us a serious player in many (particularly mineral and agricultural) exports.

However, a review of that same history will also show that what could be perceived as a major threat – but which is in fact a major opportunity – is the fact that the potential of our human resources remain largely untapped.  The most exciting opportunity created by the miracle of 1994 was the possibility of unlocking this huge unutilised resource – which, combined with the already unlocked natural resources, would put us way up there on many economic and other rankings.

Depressingly, 22 years after political freedom, we remain possibly worse off on this measure than ever before.

A glance at the diagram below shows the glaring deficiencies in South Africa’s human development when we are compared to the rest of the world.  Not surprisingly (due to a disastrously poor education system) startup skills are way below the world average.

Human capital development (as mentioned already) shows up as devastatingly poor and, not surprisingly given the poor previous two factors, the appetite to risk capital on such low level human capital and poor skills is negligible.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 9.39.50 AM

Seen through a more positive lens, South Africa can still unlock its human potential and be an even greater entrepreneurial player.

Courageous Women

Nevertheless, in the three decades of working in the development sector, specifically in job creation and entrepreneurship development, time and again we have found that it is the women who seize the opportunities for skills development.  They are driven by the responsibility to provide for their children and they are the ones who show the grit and determination to succeed.  The South African Institute for Entrepreneurship (SAIE), which has been training and supporting emerging entrepreneurs for 21 years, works primarily with female entrepreneurs.  This year, of the 18 agricultural cooperatives that were assessed and selected for the training, 88% of members were women.  In addition, SAIE ran a SETA-funded New Ventures Creation course in 2016 where 83% of the participants were women.

The Female Entrepreneurial Index (FEI)[1] ranks South Africa at no. 36 in the world ahead of Montenegro and following Uruguay (out of 77 participating nations) with a Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI)[2] score of 44.2 (the highest being the USA at 82.9 and the lowest being Pakistan at 15.2).

Critical bottlenecks

In examining what the enablers and barriers are to women entrepreneurs – certainly the inequalities of the world and the fact of motherhood are key elements.  However, there are other critical bottlenecks too.  In order for the sweet spot of entrepreneurship to be attained there needs to be an even balance between the abilities and aspirations of the woman and the attitudes of society.

There have been recent studies done that measure the state of entrepreneurship in South Africa.  Besides the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the GEI and the FEI as previously mentioned also do the same.  However, the two latter studies include research on three pillars namely Attitude (societies’ attitudes towards entrepreneurship), Ability (entrepreneurs’ characteristics) and Aspirations (quality aspects of startups and new businesses) to identify how well entrepreneurs are faring.

The 2016 GEI information on South Africa’s entrepreneurial status shows that it is strong on product innovation (the aspiration pillar), competition (the ability pillar) and on process innovation (also the aspiration pillar).  Added to that, the FEI indicates that women in South Africa fare well in terms of equal rights, technology absorption and innovation.

For the GEI, the bottlenecks in South Africa are startup skills (attitudes), our human capital (abilities) and our technology absorption (also abilities).  FEI’s research shows that bottlenecks in South Africa for women are technology sector business, internet and networks, a lack of highly educated owners and poor research and development expenditure.

You will notice that although South Africa is rated low by the GEI on technology absorption, the FEI has found that technology absorption for women entrepreneurs is an enabling (institutional) factor.  This paradox would be interesting to unpack in a further, more comprehensive analysis.

So the key positive takeaways from this research are that the country as a whole appears to be relatively strong in its ability to produce new products more cheaply or to adopt or imitate existing products.  It also has proven to be able to create new technology or perhaps apply the latest technology while maintaining its market uniqueness.  Through its sound constitution South Africa has created an environment where women’s equal rights are good with a parity of laws around capacity, property and employment.  The research also found female ICT role models in senior positions and in senior government.  There is a good firm-level technology absorptions capability in the country, which has been found to be one of the strengths of women entrepreneurs.

On the downside, however, the most damning findings confirm what we know and are painfully aware of: the fact that our education system has failed us.  The wonderful opportunity we had 22 years ago to renew and rejuvenate has not been realised. Poor management, vision and will have resulted in massive unemployment, poor skills and as yet still unlocked human potential.

In Part II of this discussion we will look at how a lack of education, specifically startup skills, influence female entrepreneurs.

 

The State of Global Entrepreneurship Education By Phumlani Nkontwana­

The State of Global Entrepreneurship Education By Phumlani Nkontwana­

What is the state of entrepreneurship education in the world today? To answer this question would be straight forward if the field of entrepreneurship education was in harmony about what content needs to be taught, how it needs to be taught and in what format or channel it needs to be delivered through. Indeed, these pedagogical challenges are at the core of many entrepreneurship centres in Europe, East Asia, the United States of America and Africa. In order to better address pedagogical issues practitioners will have to co-create terminological commonalities and general principles.

If anything the 14th European Entrepreneurship Colloquium (EEC), organised by the European Forum for Entrepreneurship Research (EFER) and co-chaired by Harvard Business School and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was set up to do exactly that. The legendary Dr Berth Twaalfhoven’s organisation (EFER) did this remarkably by amassing 57 practitioners from 26 countries across Europe, Asia, the US and Africa. These practitioners represented 46 entrepreneurship institutions over 6 days between Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management locations in July 2016. The EEC 2016 goals were to enhance entrepreneurship course and programme design across various curricula; provide a better understanding of the role and operation of labs, incubators and accelerators in entrepreneurship education; provide insights of growth, scalability, financing and management of dynamic enterprises; and finally enhance the use of participant-centred action learning case teaching skills.

“Go to any business school in the world and ask economists what ‘marginal costs’ are and you will find a consistent answer,” argued Bill Aulet, the author of the ground breaking disciplined entrepreneurship book and co-chair of EEC 2016. Bill’s argument and motivation for writing the book was inspired in part by the laissez-faire approach to teaching entrepreneurship that seem to characterise the field. The book was an attempt to professionalise and put some structure to entrepreneurship education. The need for disciplining the field is best illustrated by a graph that he presented below. It highlights the fact that the demand for entrepreneurship is very high while the quality of supply is inconsistent.

Figure 1: Demand versus quality supply of EE Source: Bill Aulet, MIT
Figure 1: Demand versus quality supply of EE Source: Bill Aulet, MIT

Among other key takeaways was the observation made by Prof. Tom Eisenmann that entrepreneurship education is moving online. Harvard Business School was experimenting with this with a few business courses. The big idea here was to create blended teaching by finding the right balance between online and classroom-based learning.

So what does all this mean for practitioners in South Africa? One of the key learnings for me was the need for entrepreneurship practitioners to work and collaborate with stakeholders in the ecosystem. Indeed, the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and SeedStars Indices for 2016 rated the South African entrepreneurial ecosystems as the best in the continent. Organisations teaching entrepreneurship education need to work collaboratively to strengthen the ecosystem and maximise impact. South Africa needs eChampions who will promote and celebrate strategic collaborations in this space.

The following insights that came from Prof. Willis Emmons, Bill Aulet, Prof. Joe Lassiter, Prof. Walter Kuemmerle and Prof. Tom Eisenmann of Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Management are what I consider useful takeaways for South African practitioners to ponder on:

  • Create an environment that welcomes entrepreneurs. Use the mantra “come in, we’re open!”
  • Refuse the temptation of using off-the-shelf pedagogy. Instead, take into account the kind of 
businesses students want to create and how fast they want to create them.
  • Engage entrepreneurs with the community.
  • Design programmes that will answer the student’s question: how will what I learn today, help
me do things better in my business tomorrow?
  • Think landscape, engagements, output and impact in programme design.
  • Finally, bridge the “Knowing-Doing-Being” gap. 
Balancing the above pedagogical issues with the ecosystem needs can legitimise entrepreneurship education.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 1.05.50 PMPhumlani Nkontwana practices entrepreneurship education at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and the Gordon Institute of Business Science in South Africa. In his private capacity he runs a small but dedicated management consultancy working directly with entrepreneurs to provide growth-orientated solutions for startups and small businesses. 


 

A Passion for Mentorship by Mbali Mncwabe

A Passion for Mentorship by Mbali Mncwabe

IMG_4413 2Over the years I have started leaning towards the philosophy that dictates, “if it does not have meaning, it is not worth doing”. The more I exercise this, the more I find that I experience greater fulfilment in all that I do.  I also no longer experience a separation between one area of my life and another since my values are not in conflict with my lifestyle. Rather my life feels whole because everything I do speaks to my values and thus it all ties together. This is the reason I chose the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

Just over 2 years ago I made a decision to leave the United States, where I resided for 24 years, along with my sons to explore a new life in my country of origin. This was not an easy decision, but it resonated with me. I felt the need to make a contribution to my country after being blessed with tremendous exposure in the US, as a student, a working professional and an entrepreneur.

After my return I took my time to settle in. My values called for it and it was well worth it because a year and a half later, I came across the Allan Gray Orbis opportunity and knew it was the right place for me. I have been amazed by the values, passion and resources that the Foundation invests in South Africa’s youth and I feel extremely optimistic and enthusiastic about the future of our youth. Mentorship is a crucial step that helps to usher our youth into the next phase of their personal and professional lives and I am honoured to serve the Foundation in the capacity of Mentor Manager.

My dream for South Africa is to see more organisations and individuals establishing and investing in programmes that benefit our youth in a similar fashion as Mr Gray did. The future belongs to the youth and we must do everything necessary to empower them.

Lessons learned from a week in the Valley By Benjamin Shaw

Lessons learned from a week in the Valley By Benjamin Shaw

Benjamin Shaw meeting Roelof Botha
Benjamin Shaw meeting Roelof Botha

The aim of the trip was to expose South African entrepreneurs to the most cutting-edge companies, incubators, venture capital investors (VCs) and hi-tech startups from the Valley. The trip was also an opportunity for us as entrepreneurs to establish new global business relationships. Our group had the opportunity to engage with startup founders, angel investors, venture capital funds and multinationals and we made many connections. Key to deriving value from the trip was the open way in which founders and VCs answered questions and the clarity with which they described the differences in South African and American funding environments. A big takeaway was that founding teams should be focusing on operations and not fundraising – a big problem in our local context.

This trip also focused on the conditions enabling Silicon Valley to be arguably the centre of global technological innovation. While I truly believe that pound-for-pound we ought to have no inferiority complex in comparing to many of the startups we met on the trip, it is clear that the environment for startups is vastly different overseas. The good news is that as success stories come from Africa, more capital will make its way to our shores.

From meetings with Roelof Botha and Bill Draper to sessions hosted by Facebook and Google, there were multiple lessons to be learnt and much wisdom shared. I would encourage all Fellows who have tech-enabled businesses to seriously consider applying to this programme. It is both an entrepreneurial and personal journey of discovery and has provided new networks, new friends and new advice.

Some Valley lessons worth sharing:

  • Venture Capitalists want to see scale in terms of decreasing unit costs and unique IP.
  • Don’t think of your business concerns in terms of paying rent for the next month, but rather how you’ll expand in the next decade.
  • Pivots / iterations on your business model should always be data driven.
  • Grow a pipeline of add-on services or products that you could branch into before you choose which you actually go out to build.
  • Spend time building tracking metrics before your business goes live so as to accurately monitor your successes and/or failures.
  • Your funders should see growth as being more important than profit. If they don’t, disengage.
  • Build a fantastic team, early.
  • Dilute your ownership for growth capital – if you’re not growing you’re not working hard enough.
  • Companies don’t have to go global to be great.

 

BYM 2016 Summit Reflections by Daniel Ndima

BYM 2016 Summit Reflections by Daniel Ndima

bmyThe Brightest Young Minds (BYM) experience was one of the highlights of my year. The brand “Brightest Young Minds” triggered anxieties in me as I anticipated a crowd of lively and robust young people from across Africa. And that is exactly what I got, minus the anxieties, of course. It came as no surprise for me to find among the BYM delegates Candidate Allan Gray Fellows and graduated Allan Gray Fellows – they were easy to recognise and relate to. In my mind the summit became a blueprint of high-impact connectivity that enabled young people from many countries to come together under one roof to discuss continental issues and imminent feasible solutions to “shape the future – the now” as was the theme.

Fundamental to the theme of the summit was the National Development Plan (NDP) of South Africa. This key document was broadly discussed by a panel that included the Head of Planning, NDP Government official. The highlight of this discussion was the issue around transformation and how GDP could be strengthened by it, given that everyone was driven towards that common goal. I believe this panel activated all the delegates, proving the value of cohesion towards transforming our economies across Africa.

It was not only the delegates that were in the spotlight. There were also well known individuals such as Stephen Van Coller, who fired up the summit from day one. One could also draw inspiration from the likes of Rudi Kruger, who, in my opinion, has rare, deep and revolutionary ideas about innovation. The CEO of Index Innovation discussed the need for disruptions in the technology sectors and how one can take control of such spaces. He emphasised the power of independent thinking and how it leads to disrupting industries – these insights I valued the most.

I believe all delegates, including me responded positively to all the insights shared by the various speakers. A case in point was how these fundamental truths were translated into our group’s business idea. Our idea was pretty much about creating synergy and linking what some of the group members were already doing. We managed to link a Candidate Allan Gray Fellow’s project in rural farming communities with the expertise of a young Kenyan commercial farmer.

We pitched our idea to a panel that included staff from Barclays Africa Group and came third. Later on we also presented it to the Minister in the Presidency – Honourable Jeff Radebe. Not only did our idea come third at BYM event, we also received promises of Agricultural Division support from Barclays Africa Group; an incubator, Awethu Project; and the Government of South Africa to help us move our idea forward.

Our idea opened up possibilities for partnerships and future collaborations between delegates from other African countries. This is a much needed interface in the current economic show-off – a collective effort and treaty among young African entrepreneurs.

Aspiring to be the Average by Nicole Dunn

Aspiring to be the Average by Nicole Dunn

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 10.47.10 AMThere are very few spaces in which I can be myself and in which I am understood. There are very few people who dream as outrageously and courageously as I do. There are very few places I call home. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is one of them.

Jamboree is an annual opportunity for Candidate Fellows from all provinces to come together for an intense weekend of entrepreneurial and self-leadership development. Initially, each year group attends separate sessions designed to fulfill the specific objectives of their stage of the Fellowship journey. The theme for Year Explore is Future Focus – in part a reminder that it is time to start thinking about the future and in part a reminder that, no matter who you are and where you come from, your dreams are valid and you should not let them shrink in the face of adversity. The Candidate Fellows dedicate two full days to introspection and developing their future plans (yes, it is as daunting as it sounds) and are provided with expansive support and guidance from a number of inspiring sources.

This is a general trend at Jamboree. The Foundation, true to its belief in the value of mentorship, organises talks from various entrepreneurs who share their stories with Candidate Fellows in the hope of inspiring them to take the “Road Less Travelled”. This year, we were incredibly fortunate to listen to a diverse range of experiences, from Jabu Stone to Mthunzi Mdwaba and Toni Glass.

Though invaluable to hear such enlivening stories, these narratives often highlight the glamour of entrepreneurship. By contrast, the pitching process and Open Space sessions illuminate some of the risk and resilience that go into making that (apparent) glamour a reality. Candidate Fellows are given the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the entire Fellowship community (are you noticing a daunting trend?) and receive feedback from fellow Fellows and the esteemed Entrepreneurial Leadership Officers.

This year I took the plunge and decided to pitch in the Wildcard Pitches. Though the 30 seconds raced past faster than my heartbeat at the time, I am so glad that I put myself out there. The feedback that I received from the Fellowship community was both constructive and encouraging; I found myself marvelling at the talent in the room. As someone who is naturally and ferociously competitive, I have struggled to open myself up to criticism, for fear of seeming slightly less competent than I present myself to be. Jamboree is a reminder of the immense value of collaboration and that if we want to go far, we must go together.

They say that you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. If I am the average of any five Candidate Fellows, I count myself so lucky.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 10.29.58 AMNicole Dunn, Year Explore, 3rd Year BSocSci PPE at UCT
Bio: I am an ambitious woman with an insatiable appetite for challenge and adrenaline. My passion for people and deep-seated commitment to social activism shapes my aspirations, interpersonal relations and outlook on life. As someone with an entrepreneurial and leadership mindset, I seek out opportunities for improvement wherever I am involved, and hope to contribute to a more equal, socially-just Africa.

 

Diary of Some Scholars at Development Camp

Diary of Some Scholars at Development Camp

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 10.01.54 AMEvery year the Foundation holds a Scholars Development Camp is a development camp where Scholars in the same grades from across the country meet in one place for a few days to enrich ourselves by learning skills and soaking up valuable information provided by the Allan Gray Talent, Fellows and guest speakers. The camp for Grade 10 and 11 took place in Franschhoek this year from 14–17 July. The following excerpts come from the reflections we’ve had about the camp to give you an idea of what we learned, what stood out for us and what we will forever remember.

Hlumelo Seyisi
St Cyprians School, Grade 11
Extra-mural activities: Debating, Model United Nations (MUN) and Presidents Awards

Our camp was centred around the idea of exploring a future as a Candidate Allan Gray Fellow. We also explored the entrepreneurial mindset and looked at typical entrepreneurial behaviours. The opportunity to listen to amazing influential speakers and interact with them allowed me to stretch beyond wanting to be good to wanting to be great!

Visiting the 2016 Jamboree, where I spent some time with the Candidate Allan Gray Fellows and participated in some activities with them, made the Fellowship feel like something more tangible and less abstract. I felt closer to my goal of becoming a Candidate Allan Gray Fellow than ever before. This experience reassured me about being enough for the Foundation. It taught me that all these years as a Scholar I had been groomed to be a Candidate Fellow and I was more than ready.

Nkanyezi Ngcobo
King Edward VII School, Grade 11
Interests: my environment, profitable things and entertainment

I believe that the Foundation hosts the camp in order to further mould Scholars for the Fellowship Opportunity. It allows us Scholars to engage with each other and the learnings provided so that we can nurture our goals and ambitions and become effectual thinkers who can later be advantaged recipients of the Fellowship.

I learnt that the many things that happen in my life are the result of my behaviour: from my friends to my work ethic. I learnt that I should be aware of what I want for myself and how I get it, even if going for what I want means losing the people around me. I also learnt that being a cool kid doesn’t get you anywhere and your future might not be cool after all. Most importantly I learnt that humility can take you places.

Khanyisile Xaba
Pretoria Boys’ High School, Grade 11
Aspirations: to study Architecture or Engineering

A development camp for me is an experience more then a date in my calendar.

What stood out from the 2016 Scholars Development Camp was being able to explore our strengths. I did not see myself being dominant in some aspects of life and less so in others. Instead I thought of myself as someone who could adapt to any surroundings and as the StrengthsFinder test showed, I am indeed a very interactive person with four other strengths: wooing, communicating, maximising and futuristic.

Katlego Nameng
King Edward VII School, Grade 11
Aspirations: to study BCom PPE (Politics Philosophy and Economics)

The Foundation hosts the development camp to DEVELOP scholars. To develop is not to create or invent but take something that is already existing and then to help it advance. That is what I believe the camp is about: helping us advance, grow and become mature.

I learnt to truly be myself. I always hear people telling me to be comfortable in my own skin, but I never truly understood the depth of those words. As disparaging as it may sound it was only through hearing about other people’s insecurities and inadequacies that I was able to get over mine.

Miarah Cader
St Cyprian’s School, Grade 11
Interests: reading, pottery and changing the world one step at a time

This year’s camp gave me a chance to explore my leadership qualities and find out what my strengths were and when to use each of them to the best of my ability. I got more insight on what it means to be a Candidate Fellow by attending the Jamboree and experiencing pitches and ideation by people I look up to. It was an inspiring experience and definitely got me thinking of ways I can make a difference in others’ lives. The guest speakers gave us an insight on their lives and how they overcame challenges by having a goal in mind and persevering.

If there’s something I can take away from this camp, it’s the engagement we had with Dr Buhle Zuma. His story and observations were inspiring and left us awestruck. He allowed us to do introspection and share our life-defining moments, which served to unite us as Scholars even more. His humble personality and very accurate observations shook us and inspired us to become more than we ever thought we could.

This camp was by far the best camp I have attended and an experience I truly appreciate having had.

On behalf of all the Scholars at Camp

Thank you to everyone who contributed to making this the most amazing camp we have had with the Allan Gray Foundation. This camp showed us how much of a family this Foundation is. So many people have seen greatness inside us; it’s only time we started seeing greatness in ourselves too.

Shrewd business calls for thinking like a woman

Shrewd business calls for thinking like a woman

AHP_0484Siphesihle Kala’s years of experience as a business consultant coupled with her experience as the Founder and Managing Director of Blaqgold Holdings has provided her with a treasure trove of wisdoms concerning business, particularly being a woman in business.

Making the discovery

Were it not for a high school teacher who encouraged her to apply for the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship Programme, Siphesihle would have never even realised that she was an entrepreneur. At the age of 14 she was already drawing up a business model for her mother’s sewing business – a costing strategy that helped the business become more profitable. Yet she never thought of this as something an entrepreneur would do. In fact, she found nothing peculiar about the way she thought: “I have always looked for solutions but I have never known what to call that. I’d just always thought that everybody else is doing the same thing.”

She found the contrary to be true only much, much later and credits the Foundation with being instrumental in helping her recognise and eventually realise her unique entrepreneurial potential. “I’ve realised that we all think very differently and maybe there’s another 100 000 people all sitting there who also think that someone else has already done it.”

From “(f)unemployment” to founder

Her decision to go it alone and give up the security and benefits of a McKinsey and Company salary was made during a six-month break (doing freelance consulting) after working at McKinsey for two years. She did a lot of self-reflection in that time, a habit she picked up while in the Fellowship Programme and one that she finds strategic and fruitful to this day. The apparent lack of quality education to those who need it most was a topic that was foremost in her mind at that time. She then returned to McKinsey but knew it would be temporary. In June 2015 she finally called it quits to begin what she terms her “(f)unemployment”. After about six weeks of that, she ditched the unemployment-part of her routine and started working on her education app as her own boss.

Blaqgold Holdings has a consulting leg and a strategic solutions leg, focusing on technology enabled solutions. The one part of her business allows her to put on her very familiar and comfortable strategic hat to help small and medium businesses scale up and plan for the future. “That’s what I’m passionate about in SMEs: turning businesses into assets because a lot of small businesses aren’t really assets,” because its existence relies so heavily on the presence of its owner she explains.

A witness who makes a difference

Her business’ strategic solutions leg is currently engaged in developing an app that will provide high quality education to learners in the poorest areas. Why work in education and technology? Her reasoning is simple: “to make a difference faster than the government.” Having managed a number of tech projects in the past, she also wants to disprove naysayers who believe one has to be a techie to manage a tech project. With her education app she hopes to bring Maths, English and Science tuition to students who are spending at least R300 on extra classes – ironically from the same teachers who teach them during the day (the reason they need extra classes in the first place). She knows that her product will be of superior quality and hopes to make it available at a cheaper price.

Another reason for doing something in the education sector is the realisation that she might be the only “witness to this mugging.” She explains that apparently a person is more likely to die without anyone calling 911 if there are ten people witnessing a mugging, than when there is only one witness. This is because everyone is assuming that the other person will do something. “It opened my eyes to the fact that I might be the only witness here and therefore I should jump in and intervene.”

Challenges facing businesswomen in South Africa

“Being a woman in South Africa right now is frustrating, at least for me.” There’s the burden of constantly having to prove that you are as capable as your male counterparts; the pressure of living up to a commonly held (but oft ill-fitting) perception of what a woman is – nurturing, friendly, polite, demure; the double standards that male and female managers are held to (no brows are raised when male managers scream at employees, but when female managers transgress, they are called hormonal and sent to conflict management workshops); and the fact that most women happily accept the status quo. Siphesihle believes that the greatest challenge for women is to stand together and expose inequality because if only one bravely speaks up, that one woman is labelled an anarchist.

Think like a woman

What would a shrewd businesswoman behave like? Siphesihle’s basic response to that question is: not like a man! She offers the following words of advice to women in business:

  • Do not get intimidated. As a woman you are fully capable of working with men; you do not need to work like them, you need to work with them.
  • Don’t play the game the same way that the guys do. There are so many things that are ours and ours alone. Women are naturally better at perceiving and reading a room. In situations where feelings influence decisions, for example when negotiating, women can use their nature to their advantage.
  • Know how to manage yourself. While there is great freedom and great strength in being yourself, you must know how you are perceived. In other words, ask yourself: “What are my perceived strengths and weaknesses?” then play to that. To illustrate, if I were my(unmanaged)self, people’s first impression of me would be that I’m an out-of-place 18-year-old. To counter that I wear glasses to first meetings and make sure that everything I say is serious. After I’ve proved myself to be a capable human being, I then let out my jovial, comical self.
  • Friendliness and politeness don’t void transactions. We’ve been taught that a good girl is polite and a good girl doesn’t shout, but when you’re running your own business, politeness will only take you so far. Do not undervalue your service or product otherwise you will resent doing it or selling it. Also resist the urge to think of yourself as a typical woman who nags when it comes to collecting payment. Femininity doesn’t mean a lack of firmness or resolve.
  • Avoid mixing business with illicit pleasure. There is nothing that undermines a woman’s drive and ambition more.
Taking back our Power to inspire the Girl Child by Lethabo Tloubatla

Taking back our Power to inspire the Girl Child by Lethabo Tloubatla

60 years on, women still not seen as equals… Or are they?

2016 marks 60 years since the most celebrated women’s March to the Union Buildings, and in 60 years, women have the right to vote, and venture into places and spaces once deemed taboo. Although there have been many instances where women were treated in an unequal manner, there has been, over history, situations where women have taken their power back.

1905 – Charlotte Maxeke becomes the first black woman to earn a Bachelors Degree in South Africa

1956 – Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa & Sophia Williams led a march to the Union Buildings to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act also known as “pass laws”

1962 – despite being under house arrest along with many women in the country, Lillian Ngoyi earns her LLB degree and is admitted to the Supreme Court of South Africa as an Advocate

1994 – Frene Gingwala is elected the first Speaker of Parliament in the democratic South Africa. In the same year, women held one-third of the seats in the provincial assemblies

The above are instances where women saw opportunities to change the status quo and disrupt the norm. Post-1994, there has been an increase in the number of women in top positions, as well as more women-led businesses that are making a significant impact on the economy of the country. These are not only a result of the many opportunities that have been made available to women, but also due to the bravery and confidence that these women have displayed and continue to do every day.

The recent events following the National Municipal elections in South Africa have sparked a very contentious but necessary conversation. A conversation about rape, how 1 in 3 women in South Africa is raped every day, a conversation that calls for accountability from the highest position in the land. One could ask why it’s so important for us all to “remember Khwezi”, why we need to keep disrupting the status quo? Well here’s my take.

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Khwezi is a name that was heard all over our radios and televisions 10 years ago. Back then, inequality was still a subject that was taboo in most households. Though women in South Africa had the same rights as everyone else, the system still disadvantaged them.

Though these disruptions mainly put a spotlight on political accountability and rape, I saw something different. I saw a generation of young women taking a stand and pushing the equality agenda. Those young ladies indirectly urged the whole country to see women as equals, in households, communities and most importantly in business.

This women’s day, I urge all women across the country to make use of all the opportunities that have been made available, in the same spirit of the strong women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956. Do something to change the future and continue to push boundaries; for yourself; but most importantly, so that the girl child will one day be inspired and brave enough to do the same when her time comes.