What is the theory of change again?
Our vision of an empowered, prosperous, productively engaged African citizenry thriving in ethical societies with dignity and hope could inspire us on a million different paths. The path we chose is described in our theory of change, which connects our actions to this vision – high impact entrepreneurship is our route to meaningful employment, and meaningful employment is our route to thriving societies. There are other routes, but our mission is to follow this one, and by connecting us all to entrepreneurial leaders and their big ideas the journey itself feels as inspiring as the vision.
The theory of change has three broad streams of action. The first is to prepare and encourage young people to be impactful entrepreneurial leaders. Some people call this work ‘preparing the jockeys’. The second stream is to help entrepreneurial ventures access the capital, skills and relationships they need to succeed. Those same imaginative types call this ‘caring for the horses’. And the third is to contribute to an enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem, for example by improving the education system or through research or by changing attitudes. This could be called ‘improving the racetrack’.
Download the theory of change graphic here.
Ok that sounds familiar, got it. So how does this connect to the shared service project?
The shared services project aims to take care of back-office work in one place where we can build expertise and take advantage of economies of scale. This will mean the rest of the group’s energy can be fully focused on the three streams described above. If we get this right, it can and should enable us to make even better progress and impact on our core work without spending more money or effort. Sharing services allows us to use economies of skills and of scale to allow entities to concentrate on nurturing and supporting high impact entrepreneurialism.
The potential of this work for our long-term mission is exciting. We are building on foundations that were laid by AGOF and the Endowment in their support for incubated ventures within the group. Funda Wande, Jakes Gerwel Fellowship and Jasiri all have benefited from sharing services and from the established support teams in AGOF over the last few years. A successful group shared services team will enable us to support other start up social ventures in the group, but at some stage we could extend this to offer a trusted set of accounting, HR, legal and IT support services to Fellow businesses and external social ventures.
Can you put that in a few sound bites?
The shared services value proposition is to take very good care of transactional HR and accounting and to keep everyone’s computers on and safe, to enable the rest of the group to focus on delivering impact as described in our theory of change. Our long term goal is to be a contributor to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and a valued part of support for entrepreneurial enterprises.
How about one word?
The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Learning Lab recently hosted a panel discussion around coaching and mentoring, aiming to help players in this space discuss challenges and share ideas.
This topic is especially pertinent at the moment because the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is in the process of developing a venture coaching playbook, explained Jalal Ghiassi-Razavi, Association Director. This document has been created in recognition of the value of support; as Jalal observes, quality output relies upon quality input. This is why the Foundation has a pipeline of around 150 programme participants receiving coaching and mentorship at any given time.
Jalal noted that support can’t end with the business. Coaches need to understand when the individual needs assistance, too. However, not all coaching or mentorship is the same. For instance, while one coach may be able to offer a wonderfully broad network, another may have unrivaled subject matter knowledge, and yet another may be able to assist with accessing funds. The question, therefore, is knowing how to match coaches with entrepreneurs, and understanding which model will suit them best.
The playbook aims to provide a guide to such subjects, while also helping to standardize coaching procedures and sharing best practices. Topics covered in the playbook include, amongst others, methodologies, setting up and managing expectations and obtaining buy-in, defining what a mentor is, measuring KPIs and matching needs.
The playbook is scheduled to be released during the third quarter of 2021.
The Panel Discussion
AGOF assembled a panel comprising key ecosystem members to discuss the nuances of mentorship versus coaching. Panel members included Josh Adler, Executive Director of the Anzisha Prize, Amina Patterson, Head of Operations at Alpha Code, and Octavius Phukubye, managing director of IDF Value Added Services.
Panelists were first asked to explain their coaching models and to describe the difference between coaching and mentoring.
According to Amina, Alpha Code’s emphasis is on mentoring, because the relationship between entrepreneurs and their mentors is a long-term one that may start during the initial 12-week introduction to the organisation, but continues well beyond this point. Leveraging their strategic mindset and experience, the mentor acts as an accountability partner, guiding the entrepreneur away from potential pitfalls. They may also function as a connector, helping to create opportunities by putting the entrepreneur in touch with other members of their network, as well as a problem-solver. They are also therapists and psychologists because although they are vested in the entrepreneur’s business, they understand that you cannot remove the personal component. Amina explained that the mentors work closely with learning managers to unpack their deliverables. They also provide their input into the programme, keeping in mind what the business is trying to achieve from a strategic perspective. Importantly, although the entrepreneur may work with several different people who have expertise in specific areas, there is always a primary anchor mentor who leads the process. This prevents the feeling that they are being pulled in different directions by multiple stakeholders and helps them maintain focus.
For Josh, meanwhile, it makes more sense to focus on coaching, because this is what the organisation tries to do while working to increase the number of entrepreneurs in South Africa: it views entrepreneurship as a team sport, it coaches individuals to understand the rules of the game and the league where they fit in. He is concerned that many especially young entrepreneurs may struggle to consolidate and implement ideas given to them by mentors who ‘dump’ these ideas without trying to contextualise them or make sense of them within the entrepreneur’s unique circumstances or environment. He prefers to see the coach, not as a therapist or decision-maker, but that each intervention is highly dependent on context.
At IDF, the question is not one of names and semantics, but rather it’s about focusing on a process that will ensure that entrepreneurs are matched precisely with a strategist who can play across the entire value chain and can help them improve their characters while also positioning the business to move forward. Key questions include whether the mentor, sponsor, or coach has the right trait or personality to provide this kind of assistance. The IDF uses a combination of tailored interventions to make this approach work because it takes the view that there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution – each start-up is different in terms of its market, product and complexity, and this is especially true for businesses in the tech space compared to non-tech startups. However, all coaching interventions must share in common deliberateness and intentionality, because without structure, deliverables, and a framework, they cannot be successful.
Panelists were then asked to discuss what measures they had found to be successful. For Josh, the answer to this question changes as startups mature. In the very beginning, coaching should focus more on building confidence and entrepreneurialism – at this stage, the business idea matters less than the quality of the individual’s thinking and how they relate to their teammates. Confidence-building at this point is vital because there is a lot of intolerance towards the idea of entrepreneurship as a career, he explains. Josh also said that it’s important for a coach to work according to a framework. Without a structure, it is difficult for people to feel that they are moving forward. However, the coach may have to tweak their frameworks to suit individuals and their particular strengths and areas of improvement.
Judging whether an individual is an effective coach is not vastly different from assessing a teacher’s prowess, Josh continued. In the case of teachers, the students’ improvement is a critical marker of success. The same holds true for coaches; if they are doing their jobs properly, it will be possible to see the business growing and improving in various areas.
Josh also maintains that one of the best ways of keeping coaches accountable is by developing a routine so that entrepreneurs have a sense of what is expected from them. It’s easy for a coach to say that an entrepreneur is not adequately engaged if they miss their session, when in fact it could be that the coach is not performing. Simple reporting along key metrics is also key, as with any business.
Amina admits that it can be challenging to measure the support provided by coaches because each entrepreneur has different requirements, depending on where they are in their journey. For example, the challenge facing mentors working with younger entrepreneurs is often helping them to maintain their focus, while more seasoned business owners tend to be more resilient throughout the process. This is why Alpha Code emphasizes the accountability of the entrepreneur throughout the journey. This is achieved by setting entrepreneurs a series of exercises, all related to their businesses, to help them test whether their assumptions are accurate.
The mentorship team, meanwhile, are responsible for setting ways of working when new stakeholders come into the fold: following a planning session, they decide on the direction to take with the entrepreneur, taking into account factors such as the entrepreneur’s priorities, their risks, and their value proposition – and, importantly, whether they have validated this with their customers, in line with the organisation’s philosophy that “if you don’t document it, it doesn’t exist”.
The mentor’s role throughout this process is rooted in having open, honest conversations with the entrepreneur. Amina says that this is sometimes difficult, because mentors may feel wary of derailing or discouraging an entrepreneur if their feedback is deemed negative. But this is why reporting is so important, she continues – it sets the stage for transparency and lays the foundation for interventions to address and overcome hurdles. She says that there must be an agreement between mentors and entrepreneurs regarding the frequency of the reporting cycle, the frequency of meetings, and proposed interventions and that these agreements must be made early on in the relationship so that expectations are established from the outset and prevent misalignment. If there is, indeed, misalignment, this serves as a red flag that conversations between the two parties are not as honest as they should be, Amina warns.
But the responsibility does not lie solely with the mentor, she adds: entrepreneurs are required to sign a contract, because they have to add value to the process, too.
For Octavius, while the measurement is vital, it’s important that the values measured relate to the business’s improvement and growth, and do not place additional strain on the entrepreneur without actually adding to their development.
The final question posed to panelists was around ethics and values. Octavius agrees that this is critical because ecosystem players are entrusted with building businesses, which means using the resources at their disposal optimally. More than this, they have to establish their credibility. Reporting plays a critical role here – but it is also important that coaches uphold this commitment to ethics because as an intermediary, their behavior and values inevitably impact the behavior and values of entrepreneurs. For this reason, the organisation is always careful to engage coaches with a proven track record. Octavius further pointed out that coaches are to set an example so that entrepreneurs understand that they need to prove due diligence and must always be ready for an audit.
Josh observes that there are two parts to the question of ethics: the first is that the very selection of coaches must be ethical. Although it is always tempting to work with people who are similar to us, this points to selection bias and impedes diversity, and is an issue that must be addressed, especially for organisations operating in Africa.
The second issue is related to coaching itself and is especially important given that young entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable. Josh says that coaches must be careful to make sure they are making suggestions, rather than issuing instructions. Their job, after all, is to give options while ensuring that their mentees maintain agency.
Amina’s perspective is that transparency is crucial at every point of the process. She says that the coaches at Alpha tribe have benefited tremendously in this regard by building a tribe: they meet regularly to share ideas and vent their frustrations (which are inevitable, given the level of emotional involvement that occurs). This is also useful in terms of building networks, which makes the work of the coach easier: for example, if you are unable to solve a problem perhaps you know someone who may be able to provide a connection. In this way, your tribe comes to function as a think tank, and also shares tools. The tribe should also provide feedback, she adds, which is especially valuable given that coaches seldom receive feedback from the entrepreneurs themselves. Amina says that it is very helpful to remember that your style may not be well suited to every entrepreneur and that if you are not able to assist them, it is important, to be honest, and help them connect with someone who can.
Opening the Discussion to the Floor
Following the panel discussion, Ventures’ Manager Simphiwe Mntambo welcomed questions and observations from the floor.
One such observation came from Ian Calvert of Further, who said that the organisation matches entrepreneurs to coaches following a thorough diagnostic which includes a psychometric assessment of the entrepreneur so that their interests are matched with those of coaches.
Meanwhile, Hank van Rensburg of Phoenix Professionals voiced his opinion that entrepreneurs should have access to both a coach and a mentor, as the former will help them work on the operational aspects of the business while the latter attends to personal development requirements.
He warns, though, that as the number of enterprise development programmes in South Africa grows, so does the number of ‘pseudo coaches’, who have tarnished the industry’s image. He also believes that individuals may come to experience coaching fatigue, especially if they belong to more than one programme and therefore consult more than one coach. Linked to this, they may receive so much coaching homework that they have less time to focus on the business’s operational requirements.
Yongama Skweyiya said that a framework can be useful in preventing this coaching fatigue, as it ensures that entrepreneurs are aware of what they should expect from their sessions. He also maintains that mentor fatigue may be linked to misaligned values.
Octavia raised an interesting point regarding what makes a coach successful. Many coaches point to the number of hours invested with entrepreneurs as proof of their success, but this counts for very little if there are few real improvements in the business’s performance, he insists: the competence of the team must be seen to improve, or its margins should increase, for example.
Simphiwe asked whether South African coaches have a global mindset – which Josh answered with a big ‘no’. He said that South Africans tend to be parochial, adding that while most coaches in South Africa have experience in big business, few coaches have worked as entrepreneurs. While this isn’t necessarily negative, he urged coaches to localize the information and insights they offer entrepreneurs, and contextualise it, too, so that it is appropriate for each individual’s situation.
Just a few years ago, no one had heard the word ‘influencer’. Now, a plethora of articles pop up on your screen if you google the term; anything from to become an influencer to how to harness the power of influencer marketing and, inevitably, which influencers to follow.
As we spend more and more time online, due to the pandemic, the question of who we follow is becoming ever more pertinent. Social media is a milieu quite unlike any other; one where people are actively trying to build their profiles by gaining followers, and others are deliberately seeking out personalities and characters they feel may enhance their lives in some way.
The truth is that all of us wield influence in some way – even if we aren’t especially aware of it. That’s the basis of community: the people around us bring out certain traits, evoke certain emotions or elicit certain behaviours. And, as much as you may be influenced by others, you’re certainly influencing those around you. That’s why we need to be mindful of the people we choose to focus on.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with being an influencer. Some people naturally and effortlessly attract attention, and while they may not set out to become symbols of aspiration and achievement, their accomplishments set them apart. There are many entrepreneurs who fit this description, and their example means that many more young people are considering this way of life as a career – which is, of course, greatly encouraging from our perspective.
The flipside, though, is that people have started to glamorize entrepreneurship. That’s understandable: there is something irresistible about the idea that we could all start working in our garages and end up millionaires, almost overnight. More than that, entrepreneurship has become something of a badge of social standing. But while we are definitely in favour of people pursuing entrepreneurship, we are concerned that it should be with an eye to helping society meet its many and multi-faceted challenges, rather than because they would like to build a personal profile.
It’s with this in mind that we find ourselves wondering how we can empower youth to consider entrepreneurship and its accompanying influence not as a gateway to online popularity, but as a vehicle to improve the lives of those around them.
The founders of Yoco mobile card machines are a case in point. Katlego Maphai, Carl Wazen, Bradley Wattrus (Allan Gray Fellow) and Lungile Matshoba established the company because they realised the progress of entrepreneurs was often hindered by a lack of payment solutions. But their efforts and intent to assist entrepreneurs didn’t end with the development of their mobile payment systems. They continue to find different ways to boost businesses; for example, two years ago, they hosted a summit called the Yoco Exchange, where small businesses were invited to swap and brainstorm ideas to move their startups forward. Discussions focused on issues such as finance; the functions that would help their businesses evolve to the next stage of their lifecycle. What’s interesting is that the summit was not intended as a platform to punt Yoco’s payment solutions or a chance to net more business; it was purely a discussion forum to help entrepreneurs learn and grow, and many participants benefited significantly from the powerful insights that emerged.
Yoco has set itself apart by using its profile to help other entrepreneurs make better decisions. In this, they embody our concept of entrepreneurship with a purpose. And we’re proud to say that similar individuals have emerged out of our programmes. Thandeka Xaba, for example, is a Fellow who worked as an investment banker. She set out to solve a problem that she faced on a regular basis: as a person with a fast-paced, high-pressure career, it was almost impossible to find the time to visit a salon for basic grooming. Realising that she could not be the only person who was battling to balance career obligations with personal maintenance, she dreamed up a mobile beauty concept; an ‘Uber’ of beauticians comprising a network of professionals who are able to provide services to clients at their place of work or home, so that they don’t have to squeeze a lengthy appointment at a salon into an already overloaded schedule. The business has evolved since its first inception, and is now targeting corporates rather than individuals.
Thandeka has moved on, too: she recently partnered with another entrepreneur to establish Digital African Ventures, a venture capital fund to support the underserved early-stage Digital Tech start-ups in Africa.
Entrepreneurs in this space often battle to obtain the funding required to launch their businesses; although funding is readily available for ventures needing R50 000-R200 000 in seed capital, or more than R2 million, there is a large ‘missing middle’ that cannot get off the ground because they can’t access funds. To date, Digital African Ventures has secured R25 million, and has made its first investment, with the potential to provide funding for nine more startups.
I am fascinated by how Thandeka’s outlook on entrepreneurship has matured: from trying to solve a personal problem, she has extended her focus so that she is solving problems for a larger community. Imagine if we could encourage more young South Africans to think this way, and to use their influence to make a positive contribution to society. Because make no mistake, Thandeka wields significant influence: Zero Bank founder Michael Jordaan recently posted a tweet about a chat she hosted as part of the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance Fireside Chat, noting that in a world where everybody else is complaining, Thandeka is busy looking for ways to solve problems.
Then there’s Velani Mboneni, who started a transportation business which targets employees working in Cape Town’s city centre, where parking is notoriously hard to find. Working on an Uber-type concept, Velani’s startup sought to help groups of staff to enjoy a shared ride to work. It has since developed to a point where it helps corporates get their employees to work safely – something which has become especially important as the need for social distancing in workplaces means that more people are working odd hours that sometimes don’t coincide with public transport schedules. Velani’s story stands out because of his eagerness to help others; to the extent that he is willing to partner with his target market. In fact, we were so impressed with his entrepreneurial journey that we incorporated a ‘Velani’ avatar in the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge a few years back: as someone who started their business at a very early age, he’s ideally placed to talk candidly about how young entrepreneurs can get started and the challenges they may face; especially as he had to change his own financing model in order to make the business successful.
We’re also very proud of Lethabo Motsoaledi, who has established Voyc, a business that helps call centres extract the information they need to understand, and therefore help, customers very quickly. By mining this data, the centres are able to provide a response swiftly, and clients are able to move on with their own activities. Coming from a family of doctors, Lethabo has always had an interest in input versus output, and the fact that these are not always commensurate. This got her thinking about how she could harness technology to fast-track impact. Voyc has done away with the hours needed to transcribe and analyse interviews, using algorithms to do the job instead – and the result is greater efficiency that benefits all parties.
Our other AGOF friends include Marie Noelle Nwokolo, who works in the research space, and Okendo Lewis-Gayle, founder of the Harambe Entrepreneurship Alliance – both of whom are working hard to promote awareness of the great opportunities that exist within Africa. In so doing, they are changing the perception of the continent, from a place that has been exploited to one where possibilities exist.
These are not names that regularly make headlines – and maybe they never will. That doesn’t matter because they are making a difference to so many people.
This is the mindset we hope all of our programme participants embrace. Entrepreneurship has been hailed as the panacea needed to heal our ailing economy, but the reality is that startups are no more immune to the culture of corruption and mismanagement that has affected large corporations – in fact, some may argue that entrepreneurs, bent on ‘getting rich quick’, are even more susceptible. This is why, more than ever, we need youth leaders who are interested in adding value to society rather than being only focused on self-enrichment.
My question to the youth of South Africa, therefore, is this: how can you use the resources at your disposal to transform your journey towards entrepreneurship into a force for good? How can you use the influence you amass along that journey to have a positive impact on others?
And as we do so, how can we become awake to our own purpose? This isn’t an easy process. It requires that we become aware and mindful of the values that have become entrenched through society’s teaching, and which we may have to unlearn because they don’t serve us in our quest to become high impact, responsible entrepreneurs. Maybe this means discarding the notion that we need to be ‘seen’ all the time, and focusing instead on what we would like to be ‘seen’ for.
We at the Foundation see entrepreneurship not only as a vehicle for personal gain (because, after all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make a profit), but as one that can guide the decisions we make, which ultimately affect others. It’s easy to lose sight of our purpose, and it’s tempting to focus on ourselves rather than others – after all, it’s so much easier to work towards a personal profit than making a contribution to society. The truth, though, is that your value is amplified, rather than diminished, when you keep an eye to the greater good. So often, it is when we help others that we ultimately help ourselves.
Our Gray Matter Entrafluence Series aims to highlight how entrepreneurship can be used as a platform to add value to society. Find the Gray Matter podcasts, in collaboration with Timothy Maurice Webster, below.
Lethabo’s personal journey of what shaped her into the entrepreneur she is today and how the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation acted as a vehicle for her to reach and achieve her purpose.
This episode speaks to Marie-Noelle’s academic experience and how she applied it along with entrepreneurial tools to have an impact within the policy-making space in order to regulate society better.
Interview with Thandeka Xaba, Fellow and co-founder of Digital Africa Ventures, which serves to represent the underrepresented by bridging the funding and support gap for early-stage tech entrepreneurs.
Hear about the beginnings and experiences that shaped Okendo Lewis Gayle, founder of the Harambean Entrepreneur Alliance, and how one moment inspired him to continue to pursue a better world.
Interview with Harambean Fellow, Velani Mbweni, CEO and co-founder of Lula, a disruptive tech company focusing on transforming the way people commute by leveraging the shared economy with mobile technology. In this episode, Velani highlights the moment that shaped not only him but his decision to become an entrepreneur and identifies how he could solve a growing socio-economic problem with a practical solution.
February 2021: In an uncertain world, it is evident that developing an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset is pivotal. This is an opportunity for Grade 12 learners who dream of ideas that could better the world; and the individuals who aspire to work with purpose and bring about much-needed change to their communities.
For more than 15 years, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has substantially invested in the education and development of young South Africans with dreams and potential to develop into successful entrepreneurs. Grade 12 learners across the country are invited to apply now to be selected for the Foundation’s 2022 Fellowship Programme which is an exciting opportunity for successful individuals to nurture their entrepreneurial mindsets.
With four distinct entrepreneurship programmes, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation recognises entrepreneurship as a lifelong quest requiring a long-term, holistic approach. For high achievers amongst the current Grade 12 cohort, it’s the opportunity to not only secure financial support for their tertiary studies at a top partner university, but selected Candidate Fellows will also enter into a realm of 360º entrepreneurial training and become part of a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Successful applicants need to demonstrate a curious mindset, leadership skills, ethical values and commitment to using their entrepreneurial thinking to bring about positive change.
At a time when the formal economy is shedding thousands of jobs due to the pandemic, Nontando Mthethwa, Head of Public Affairs and Communications at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, emphasizes the importance of the country’s investment in job creators. “At the Foundation we believe that entrepreneurial training should be a basic human right. Our education sector, from school through to tertiary studies, is primarily focused on turning out job seekers. This means that fewer Grade 12s leave school confident that they have what it takes to be successful business owners. Our Fellowship Programme is designed to step into this gap, and ensure that as they undertake university studies, they are simultaneously exposed to entrepreneurial training and a community that passionately believes in the powerful possibilities of entrepreneurship.”
The Foundation’s Fellowship is available at 10 partner universities across five provinces including the Western Cape, Gauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State. “The goal of the Fellowship Programme is to ensure that qualifications taught at institutions are aligned to entrepreneurial outcomes, and can be applied in an entrepreneurial context,” says Mthethwa.
“The Fellowship Programme sets students on a pathway that nurtures their entrepreneurial potential so that they develop personally and professionally as responsible entrepreneurs with the potential to bring much-needed change to South Africa, and the world.”
- South African citizenship
- 21 years of age or younger in 2021
- Minimum of 60% in Pure Mathematics or a minimum of 80% in Mathematical literacy for final grade 11 results
- Minimum average of 70% for final Grade 11 results (excluding Life Orientation)
- Intention to study towards a Commerce, Science (excluding Medicine, Veterinary Science and Dentistry); Engineering, Law, Humanities or Arts degree at the Iniversity of the Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg, University of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela University, Rhodes University, University of the Western Cape, Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria, University of the Free State and University of KwaZulu-Natal
- Indications of an entrepreneurial mindset
- Belief in the future of South Africa
Applications accepted between 8 February and 30 April 2021, 17:00 SAT.
- Visit www.allangrayorbis.org to download an application form, or to apply online.
The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation believes that entrepreneurially-minded individuals with ethical values and strong leadership skills hold the promise of change. We stand behind entrepreneurs improving the socio-economic landscape of Southern Africa. Our mission is to foster such impact by providing youth demonstrating the highest potential access to education and cultivating within them an entrepreneurial mindset.
Impact measurement avows the positive effect that the Foundation has on the South African entrepreneurial ecosystem and it ensures that the social goals, defined intentions and performance delivered is aligned with the Foundation’s mission to foster a community of high-impact, responsible entrepreneurs. Impact management governs impact investing and
establishes the measurement approach and strategy to generate, capture and use the correct data.
Allan Gray’s vision of making a sustainable, long-term contribution to Southern Africa is upheld by impact management and impact measurement and embattles the need to raise up the kind of high-impact entrepreneurs that will make wide-reaching and significant economic and social impacts on a country.
This report serves several important purposes and guides the Foundation in strategic decision making, overcoming the challenges of time, cost and capacity, and planning activities for the following year whilst also providing an accurate justification for each decision made. Through this, we have identified opportunities and found ways to mitigate problems and to further strengthen proven successes and see Allan Gray’s vision through. The key changes in the context of the South African entrepreneurial ecosystem, the experiences of Programme Participants and an operational overview of the Foundation is encapsulated in the 2019 Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Impact Report.
Find it here.
Testing is a critical in the fight against the spread of coronavirus. Led by Allan Gray Fellows Daniel Ndima and Dineo Lioma, CapeBio has answered the challenge with a kit providing results in just 65 minutes.
Testing is a pillar of any campaign against coronavirus, and not only because it identifies infected individuals. It also provides an idea of how the virus may be developing within the country – and, once scientists potentially understand its spread, government can plan resources accordingly.
This is why the qPCR kits developed by CapeBio are hailed as a massive breakthrough, with critical implications for the country’s ability to weather the current crisis. As Daniel Ndima, CEO of CapeBio says, “The ability to obtain rapid test results allows us to gain a clearer picture of viral infections, so that we are able to introduce interventions with greater effectiveness.” This will remain important even after lockdown, as South Africa has a population of over 55 million people who will need to be monitored on an ongoing basis.
The culmination of a career
Ndima says that CapeBio’s innovation was a response to the massive disruptions created by the virus in South Africa. “One of our major challenges is our reliance on imported tests,” he explains. “Most countries are currently experiencing issues with supply and demand, which their respective governments are controlling with newly introduced trade regulations. This has caused delays in the delivery of imported testing kits and protective gears, and may impact on the delivery of vaccines once they have passed clinical trials.”
A scientist with a special interest in structural biology, Ndima says that the development of the kits represents a spinoff of the work he has dedicated the past 12 years of his life to. CapeBio already has an established reputation in this field, he adds, noting that the company has created a number of test kits with a reputation for reliability. “Our kits help pathologists isolate and identify a virus’s DNA or genetic material from an infected person. This makes it possible to detect the virus accurately in a laboratory.”
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, CapeBio was heavily involved in the production molecular biology reagents, enzymes and kits which were used in universities as well as research councils and R&D companies in both South Africa and the United States. These kits were playing a vital role in helping scientists to study and understand the importance and function of certain genes in human beings, animals, microbes and plants.
However, CapeBio was awaiting validation from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority before introducing its products to a broader user base, such as private and public pathology labs, as well as pharmaceutical companies. “The tests still had to be reformulated, validated and certified by this body for diagnostics of other diseases caused by deadly pathogens such as HIV, TB, malaria and genetic related diseases,” Ndima informs. “We were looking into formulating our current products for these purposes, amongst others.”
Then came the advent of COVID-19 – “and out of patriotism and national duty to our country, we decided to expedite the local manufacture of the kits,” Ndima says. He adds that when news of the devastation wrought on China and Europe by the coronavirus hit our press, he knew it was just a matter of time until we faced the same battle. Our fight would be even harder, though, because of our heavy reliance on imported biotechnology products. Thus, one of CapeBio’s goals is to upscale production, once the necessary permits and certificates have been obtained, so that there are no kit shortages either in South Africa or the rest of the continent.
As a locally manufactured product, the qPCR could mitigate this reliance on overseas imports, ensuring that testing reagents could be accessed quickly and without a wait. They are also more affordable than international products. Perhaps most importantly, however, CapeBio’s product makes it possible to obtain test results in just 65 minutes, compared to the usual three hours.
Now in the assessment and validation phase, the test kits will be ready for rollout by the beginning of June.
Curbing the crisis
While most of the country’s efforts to this point have been focused on #FlatteningTheCurve, Ndima points out that the impact of the crisis on our economy is just as concerning as the toll on our healthcare systems. He cites Euler Hermes’ observation in the latest Global Insolvency Report that business insolvencies were expected to rise in 2020 as the country fought a protracted growth slowdown, with growth expected to reach only 0% in 2020 and 0.7% in 2021. In fact, we’d already started to see the fallout: in 2019, business insolvencies were up by 6%, and this number would have risen by a further 4% if business had continued as usual. But, of course, it did not – and so, with lockdown taking a significant toll, we should brace for a hefty increase in these numbers. Along with this comes the anticipation of structural reform from state-owned companies, as well as retrenchments. Says Ndima, “We don’t know if this is the right time for these highly contested measures by labour forces, or if the right time will ever come. But there is no doubt that we are facing a serious health and economic threat that will leave us a changed nation.” His belief is that, to meet our changed circumstances, global economic machinery and conduct also need to evolve. “It’s not just about holding on to the 4IR capabilities that will keep whatever little fire is left to support our nation; we also need to rethink, reimagine and morph into a nation with businesses that can survive global catastrophes of this nature going forward.”
With this in mind, Ndima says that entrepreneurs would do well to consider their offerings and tactics so they are better suited to a drastically changed ‘post coronavirus’ world. One of the hallmarks of this world is collaboration, he notes – as, indeed, CapeBio has benefited enormously from the opportunities for collaboration it gained as part of the Department of Science and Innovation’s COVID-19 response team, where experts from universities and R&D centres around the country have been give a platform to share ideas and capabilities in the search for viable solutions. This body has been formed to ensure that the country has the right tools to combat the outbreak and its associated impact on the health system – and enough of them, Ndima explains. But it’s also about sharing the resulting insights with knowledge systems creators from academia, and vice versa.
Biotechnology and healthcare are obvious sectors where future opportunities may be present, but entrepreneurs may also find that they can add value by providing products and services that support these industries. That said, Ndima is particularly enthusiastic about the potential of the biotechnology space. “This is an area that is largely misunderstood in South Africa. Compare this to a country like the United States, where it essentially underpins the economy because it covers so many areas, from therapeutics to pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. If we achieved the same kind of focus on the sector, we could start to play a bigger role on the global stage.” More than this, we could ensure that South Africa was better geared not only to overcome the challenges created by the current crisis, but to ensure that the country’s economy and other resources are strong enough to withstand other disasters which may come our way.
“This is the right time to look to biotechnology, but you don’t need to do it alone. Other industry members are here to help, in the prevailing spirit of collaboration,” says Ndima. CapeBio is more than willing to step into this role, he adds, promising other Allan Gray Fellows that if they answer this call, his team will do all they can to help them realise their objectives.
“This could be an opportunity for businesses to reimagine their offerings during and post COVID-19 outbreak. All of us need to go back to the drawing boards, rethink tactics, collaborate and rebuild, using the benefits offered by 4IR tools to create high impact businesses. This global pandemic is presenting us with serious health and economic threats, but I think it could present us with stimulated business mindsets going into the new world – so that, hopefully, we can build businesses rooted in kindness to all our people and a sense of responsibility and patriotism to our nation,” he concludes.
As responsible citizens, we are doing our part to halt the spread of COVID-19. The health and safety of our Talent, programme participants and stakeholders are of primary concern to us, so it is important that we act quickly.
The President has declared COVID-19 a national disaster and announced some far-reaching controls that restrict movement and helps to curtail the spread of this virus. In support of minimising the spread of COVID-19, we have identified strict precautionary measures to be implemented urgently to avoid potential infections in our community. Prevention is our key theme and mantra.
One of the main enemies to fight in such a crisis is panic fuelled by ignorance and misinformation – we call upon our community to assist us in limiting the panic regarding coronavirus. Please be mindful about disseminating memes, articles and other sources of information that have not been verified as comprising facts. It is always best to verify information through the World Health Organisation; SA’s Department of Health or the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
Our precautionary measures are as follows:
- International and non-essential national travel is prohibited.
- This means that the only travel that will be allowed until the end of June is that of our programme participants travelling to their homes.
- All Foundation events with guests of 100 or more people will be cancelled or put on hold until July. We are working on a strategy and schedule for these activities and will be communicating throughout this period on changes or updates.
- We are initiating a remote working strategy in support of practising social distancing across the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. Talent will work from home as of Wednesday, 18th March 2020. Arrangements have been put in place for our Facilities and Data Management Centre functions.
- Small group in-person meetings or training workshops that cannot be avoided will be hosted at our offices – appropriate precautions will be put in place by the organiser.
- All Talent who feel any of the symptoms associated with Covid-19 will immediately disclose to their Manager and seek medical attention; Talent members with any exposure will be requested to self-isolate
- Engagements with our internal and external communities will be telephonic; or via WhatsApp, Teams and video conferencing
- Where in-person engagement are unavoidable and agreed, we request that stakeholders disclose if they have travelled to high-risk areas in the past two months or have experienced any related symptoms
Personal and Environmental Hygiene
- We will and encourage all stakeholders to, continue with hand washing, use of hand sanitisers, to not touch one’s face and to cough into one’s curved elbow.
- The office cleaning will continue at a high standard and disinfectant sprays are used periodically through the day.
- Hand sanitisers are available throughout both offices.
All updates regarding our events and Fellowship Applications will be shared via our social media channels.
Any questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your adherence to the above. We trust in the commitment and cooperation of our community to ensure that we handle this situation with care, responsibility and consideration for the important work our organisation still has to do in the midst of this challenging time.
It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the death of Allan William Buchanan Gray. He died of natural causes on 10 November 2019 in Bermuda, where he lived since 1997. Allan made an immeasurable impact on many lives as an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist in South Africa, and globally.
He has earned his rest.
Allan leaves behind a lasting legacy. He was first known as an exceptional investor, founding the investment firm Allan Gray, and later Orbis. The companies he built had the singular purpose of creating long-term wealth for clients, and successive generations of employees continue to be guided by Allan’s strong values and his philosophy and approach to investing. He saw philanthropy as a natural extension of the impact that the investment business aims to make in people’s lives, spending considerable focus and energy later in his career on philanthropic endeavours.
His last years were spent setting up the Allan & Gill Gray Foundation (the Foundation), to which he donated his family’s controlling stake in the Orbis and Allan Gray groups. All dividends that the Foundation receives are devoted entirely and exclusively to philanthropy. More recently the Foundation established initiatives around the world through which themed contributions are made to causes wherever Allan Gray and Orbis offices are situated. The current programme theme aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all, and to promote lifelong learning.
As Allan wrote in his final Chairman’s Letter in 2015: “We consider this both the right thing to do and a small but necessary contribution toward a society full of hope for all humanity. The free enterprise system has done so much for so many, and it behoves the few whom it rewards particularly well to help those less fortunate.”
Allan was a man of quiet dignity, never seeking the limelight for himself. He was bold in his decisions, but always humble in his approach to learning from others. He had genuine respect for all people, inspiring them to find and bring out the best in themselves. He modelled his view that business decisions were usually uncomplicated when viewed against clear values and principles.
Allan always taught that it’s not enough to work on important matters – one must focus on the most important. Yet he insisted that one sweat the details, for unpicking apparently small aspects could often unlock full insight. One of his greatest talents lay in keeping both the “important” and the “detail” in mind at the same time.
His work in philanthropy began in 1979, when he and his wife Gill founded the Allan and Gill Gray Charitable Trust. In 2006 he established the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, to fund bursaries and scholarships for talented Southern African scholars and students, mainly from under-resourced communities, with the specific purpose of developing entrepreneurial talent. He and Gill made donations to fund the Centre for Values-based Leadership at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, and the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics at Rhodes University.
Allan was born in East London, South Africa in 1938. After completing high school at Selborne College, he studied at Rhodes University. He qualified as a chartered accountant and went on to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School in 1965. He then worked at Fidelity Management and Research in Boston, before returning to South Africa in 1973 to found what would become Allan Gray Limited. He set up Orbis in 1989 to focus on global investing, and moved with Gill to Bermuda in 1997. A meticulous planner, he spent a number of years gradually transferring his responsibilities to others, confident that the firms were in excellent hands. He handed over the presidency of Orbis to his son Will in 2000, resigned from the Allan Gray board in 2010 and stepped away from his remaining investment responsibilities at Orbis in 2012, before retiring officially from Orbis in 2016.
Allan’s important legacy is exemplified by the work of the 1,500 employees of the asset management firms he founded, the benefits accruing to their many clients, and the ongoing impact which the philanthropic efforts he founded will continue to have. He made a difference.
Allan leaves behind his wife Gill, their three children Trevor, Jenny and Will together with their spouses Carrie, Buddy and Ali, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Note about the author: Jonathan was an early employee of Allan Gray, joining the firm in 1980, and remains a member of the Orbis group. His relationship with Allan was always personal as well as professional. “Find for yourself a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend.” (Talmud)
The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is saddened to announce the passing of its Founder and Patron, Allan William Buchanan Gray. Allan was a visionary and successful businessman; a pioneer in the investment sector; a leader and a philanthropist, and these characteristics informed much of his work in securing a future, not only for his investment clients but also for the many beneficiaries of his philanthropic organisations.
In 1984, Allan wrote to the Finance Department of the then South African government asking permission for 20% of the company to be donated to a trust to support Black enterprise. Although unsuccessful at this time, the seed had been planted. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was started in 2005 and funded by a donation of 7% of the taxed profits from Allan Gray Limited alongside an endowment trust capitalised with over R1 billion, that he donated to ensure its continuity.
The Foundation has provided high quality schooling and entrepreneurship education to over 350 Scholars from highly disadvantaged families; with over 450 Candidate Fellows currently receiving tertiary education in universities in South Africa and abroad; and a further 432 having graduated to become Allan Gray Fellows. Additionally, 14,000 high school students have been reached through the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge.
Allan’s vision was of an entrepreneurial, equitable South Africa flourishing with meaningful employment. He believed in the dynamism of high impact young entrepreneurial leaders whose passion, integrity and innovation will be at the forefront of the continuing economic and social transformation of this region.
In turn, Allan provided many individuals the freedom to dream; as he said: “It’s about creating opportunity – a sense of hope for everybody so that people can dream, not a dream that is impossible but a dream that can be realised”.
To this end, he conceptualised a model that would identify, nurture and support young entrepreneurial talent through long term investments in their education coupled with a well thought out comprehensive support programme offering. Allan’s ability to understand systemic issues and create sustainable solutions has been the basis from which the Foundation and his other philanthropic endeavours have grown.
“We at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation feel a deep sense of loss at the passing of Allan, our Founder, and wish his family comfort and peace at this difficult time. The business relationship and personal friendship we shared with him have been a source of enrichment and learning for us all. We shall miss his visionary guidance and quiet leadership greatly,” said Chairman of the Board, Prof. Njabulo Ndebele.
Yogavelli Nambiar, CEO of the Foundation, adds: “While the Foundation mourns his loss, we can be comforted knowing that his vision has secured a future for over a thousand individuals and helped reach thousands more through various entrepreneurship initiatives, research and educator support. The onus now rests with us to continue to carry his vision forward, creating a world where young entrepreneurs create lasting social change within their communities across South Africa. Allan’s spirit of significance and humility will live on in the Foundation and the many young people supported by it.”