An entrepreneur’s dream Christmas

An entrepreneur’s dream Christmas

With just 52 days to go before Christmas I thought it would be good to bring you some early festive cheer through some great entrepreneurship award opportunities.

Even if 2015 had some Grinch-inducing occurrences for you, now, at least, you can end it the right way with something positive to look forward to in the New Year for your business. Consider today’s post the Foundation’s (early) Christmas present to you. That they mirror our values so closely makes it easy to see why the following “gifts” are on our list of festive favourites.

  1. Township Entrepreneur Awards


townshipThe Gauteng Department of Economic Development will be using the inaugural Township Entrepreneur Awards to draw public attention to township businesses and their successes. The aim is to unlock business opportunities in the townships and inspire investment confidence so that the future form and substance of the township economy and its sustainability are amplified. The awards will also act as a launchpad for a 13-part reality TV show open to township entrepreneurs across the Gauteng province. The closing date for entries has been extended to 9 November 2015.


  1. Total Startupper of the Year

Let’s face it – everybody had to start somewhere. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb and other leading names in the 2.0 economy all started as the brainchild of inspired young people. There’s no shortage of startuppers in Africa — iCow, CardioPad, Obami and M-Iouma are some of the startups that are changing the way the continent lives, moves and works. So if you’re a young African (under 35) and if you’re currently preparing a business plan or are in the early stages of creating your own business then you’re eligible to enter.

Total are interested in all projects, regardless of the type of business or activity, as long as they share the characteristics common to creative start-ups:

  • Innovation
  • Competitiveness
  • Growth boosting
  • Job creation

The contestant must be a citizen of any one of the 34 African countries where its application is submitted in order to create or develop its project there. Only one application per contestant is admitted. Closing date 31 January 2016.


  1. Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards


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If you read our recent blog on Global Citizenry, you’ll see the appeal of these awards. Since inception in 2013, The Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards, in partnership with the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, have sought innovative yet practical solutions, created by young people, to help make sustainable living commonplace. The closing date for the awards is 18 November 2015. Six finalists will each receive cash prizes of €10,000, along with support and mentorship (worth €10,000). One winner will receive a €50,000 cash prize and will be awarded the HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize at an event in London in Spring 2016 and €25,000 worth of support and mentoring.

  1. FNB Business Innovation Awards

In partnership with Endeavour, FNB have developed a platform where innovative businesses in South Africa are recognised. Former First Rand CEO, and now Endeavor Board Member, Paul Harris believes that the awards “are a real opportunity for high-impact entrepreneurs to unleash their potential. Endeavor’s extensive experience in working with high-impact businesses is perfectly complemented by FNB’s commitment to innovation.”  The selection criteria for these awards are based on Endeavor’s entrepreneur selection model (both for the business and business owner), which caters for scale-ups. Facilitated by Endeavor South Africa, the selection criteria of the awards focus on businesses that are able to meet the following standards:

  • Development impact
  • Business innovation
  • Fit with FNB and Endeavor

The awards come with incredible international networking opportunities. Entries are now open and close on 31 January 2016.

Good luck!


Rugby and the myth of success | Peter Manser

Rugby and the myth of success | Peter Manser

Inside imageSouth Africa’s Saturday loss against Japan in our first Rugby World Cup match was disappointing to say the least. In today’s piece Dr. Peter Manser, proud principal at our Circle of Excellence member school, Alexander Road High School, in Port Elizabeth, explores why prioritising significance over success is so critical in our schools in light of the dominance of the sporting culture within them.


It seems peculiar that the power, strength, size and speed of rugby players sometimes tend to symbolise the core of success at many South African schools. For some there is a bizarre belief that victory on the sports field means that our children are being educated successfully.

There appears to be a mythical assumption that the success of a school is directly proportionate to the success of its 1st XV rugby team. As a result the purchase of children from primary schools or the poaching of any learner from a neighbouring school who demonstrates a semblance of rugby talent appears to have reached educationally inexplicable proportions. Other sporting codes such as hockey, netball or squash tend to be sidelined and of course soccer, arguably the most popular sport in the world, doesn’t feature at all!

The “godliness” of rugby at school level is surely an insult to girls and a slight to all well-balanced, academically astute not-so-rugby inclined young people; not to mention those who practice their music or dance for hours in order to achieve a level of excellence required by the arts. Dropping a note is simply not as important as dropping a ball!

Why Celebrate Success

It is not the fact that schools celebrate their successes per se that I question. Rather it is how, for what and for whom we measure success at schools that becomes a contentious issue. In order to secure a reserved seat on the Ferris wheel of success, some schools for example turn rugby into a compulsory event. Either you must play or you must watch and cheer!  In short, the achievement of success for the greater good becomes superfluous when one assumes that success is measured by a somewhat egotistical, insular act of self-righteousness.

It seems that it is customary and an indelible part of our South African schools’ educational psyche to celebrate all that is considered popular for the wrong reasons. Those school leaders who publically strut their victories are those who shine their trophies, swell their egos and rate their achievements by celebrating their measure of success through their defeat of others. These are the select who celebrate because it makes them look good rather than because their success is morally, ethically and educationally justifiable.

Other, more holistically balanced school leaders, celebrate with learners, families and educators and give thanks to the fruits of what hard work and dedication harvest across a wide spectrum of activities. They celebrate excellence in diversity and all that it encompasses as they choose to celebrate achievements in the broadest terms possible. An effective school leader should instill a belief that the role of a school is to extend the horizons of children rather than curtail them.

Success and Significance

I have become increasingly aware that success at schools needs to be expanded to embrace significance – and there is a fundamental difference between the two. Success-based motives ask what children can do to enhance the image of the school. It is centered on self and is contained within the borders of the school. The effect of this success has limited influence as it encourages convergent behaviour and a heliocentric belief that the educational universe revolves around the school. Instead of the school being an integral part of society’s educational needs, it is seen as a self-ingratiated entity around which all else becomes relatively insignificant. Here success is selfishly guarded and is perceived as a ‘win at all costs’ target often governed by rigid expectations and narrowly defined behavioural rigidity.

Significance, however, requires us to ask what the school can do to help children become more universally relevant. In Blake’s words, it ‘turns and turns in a widening gyre’ and the school could in all likelihood become an immeasurable place of infinite impact. Significance has unlimited influence as it is about others. Significance is about educating children to be future leaders as it encourages them to embrace the needs of the country not simply the needs of the school. Significance teaches the art of social entrepreneurship and affords young people many opportunities to determine for themselves where they believe their interests and talents lie and how these can be used for the greater good.

Significance and Citizenry

Success determines how we add value to our insular world. Significance determines how we add value to the greater world outside. Extrinsic reward, like a short term moment of satisfaction, becomes the result of our success in victory; significant reward is the ongoing celebration of others’ successes and their multifarious efforts. There is a fundamental shift in values away from the self -gratification of success based thinking. While we need to strive for excellence in all that we do, we need to turn excellence into significance beyond the realms of our school walls. The cheerleaders who are brainwashed to idolise the muscle and brawn of a few should be educated to cheer and celebrate all that is good.


Above all they should be educated to appreciate that our human capital needs to be evenly distributed across the entire realm of our schools’ activities so that all children can benefit in areas that may not bring immediate satisfaction.

If schools do not move from being selfishly success-based to unselfishly significant then I fear that education in our country will not prosper. We need to focus on the real needs of our country and educate with a focus on significance.  We need to guide our children to become well-versed in the art of citizenry and educate them to believe that their success can only be measured by their significant contribution to the world at large. It is about time that all schools create a climate of understanding that there are multiple ways of measuring success and multiple means of celebrating significance.

The Measure of a School’s Significant Success

I believe that rather than measure the success of a school by celebrating the uniformity of our sponsored rugby jerseys, we need to measure our significance in society by shifting our traditional thinking and customary beliefs. We need to take brave decisions and not be fearful of change.

I believe that the significance of a school’s success is not necessarily measured in tangible ways, but often significant success is evident in a more spiritual sense. It is found in attitude, it is heard in laughter, it is felt in love and caring, it shines in eyes and it moves in silent empathy. It is the core of support and the centre of hope. Success is personified in goodness and sincerity, it thrives on friendship and it is nurtured in the love one has for one’s fellow man. It is the product of understanding the melodic notes of the musical intonations of peace.

Success is not about scarcity mentalities that thrive on the belief that in order to be significant one needs to be selfishly powerful. Rather success is the soul mate of abundance mentalities where all of us are as important as one of us, where our energy and sense of achievement are rewarded by watching others thrive and grow.

So as we celebrate success together, let us begin to match our success with our potential to achieve significance. In this way our well-guarded shrines can be for the benefit of all future South Africans.

Three cheers!

No lip service but polishing the femtrepreneurship mirror

No lip service but polishing the femtrepreneurship mirror

Womens+march+Union+BuildingsSunday marked the 59th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March and national celebrations in honour of women achievers and the strides made in women empowerment in the past two decades were the order of the day.

At the national Women’s Day celebration in Sasolburg in the Free State, President Jacob Zuma released the first report on the status of women in South Africa’s economy. Compiled by the Ministry in the Presidency responsible for Women‚ the report is a baseline document that promotes gender equality, the socioeconomic empowerment of women and the advancement of their human rights. Pres. Zuma said that there was no doubt that great strides had been made since 1994 to improve the status of women but that “notwithstanding the plethora of progressive legislation, women have not advanced as rapidly in terms of socioeconomic empowerment and gender equality as we would wish‚ and they remain the hardest hit by inequality‚ poverty and unemployment.”

As a force for economic growth, femtrepreneurship has gained momentum across the world and SA is no exception. The bulk of the available data on female entrepreneurs comes from studies in developed economies. In the developing world – and in South Africa specifically – research in this area is skewed towards the informal sector.

SBP’s SME Growth Index is a comprehensive and unique study of the SME community in South Africa. It is a multi-year research project on the dynamics of the country’s under-examined formal SME sector and is geared towards establishing an evidence-based understanding of South Africa’s SMEs.

Now in its fourth year, the SME Growth Index is constructed from a survey of a randomly-selected panel of 500 firms, employing between 10 and 50 people in the manufacturing, business services and tourism sectors. These sectors are deemed to have value-adding potential. The SME Growth Index focuses on established firms rather than start-ups or survivalist enterprises because it is, largely, from established businesses that South Africa’s growth and developmental benefits will be sustained. In a November 2013 occasional paper, insights gleaned from the SME growth index, presented interesting, if not disconcerting, key points about SA’s women-owned companies.

  1. Women-owned firms are in the minority in SA and are heavily concentrated in the tourism sector.
  2. Firms owned by women tend to be smaller than those owned by men, both in terms of turnover and number of employees. The average turnover of a woman-owned firm in the study was R8.2m, considerably lower than the R12.1m average turnover among firms owned by men
  3. Women-owned firms are significantly smaller in terms of employee numbers. The average woman-owned firm employs 23.1 people, while firms owned by men employ an average of 29.6
  4. Firms owned by women tend to have been operating for a shorter period than those owned by men.
  5. Motivations for starting a business vary almost infinitely but generally women are motivated to a higher degree than equally qualified men to become entrepreneurs for family-related lifestyle reasons; they are less motivated than men by wealth creation and advancement reasons.
  6. Women fall behind men in relation to previous specific entrepreneurial experience

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SA and the US exhibit similar traits in terms of femtrepreneurship. A recent report on women-owned businesses in the US found that that there are just over 9.4 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating nearly $1.5 trillion in revenues and employing over 7.9 million people. Women-owned firms are found in all sectors of the economy. However, the greatest number of women-owned firms is found in health care and social assistance.

Women-owned firms account for 30% of all enterprises in the US, and are growing faster in number and employment than most other firms. Despite this fact, women-owned firms only employ 6% of the country’s workforce and contribute just under 4% of business revenues – roughly the same share they contributed in 1997. When large, publicly-traded firms are excluded, women-owned firms comprise 31% of the privately-held firm population and contribute 14% of employment and 12% of revenues.

While it’s comforting to see that SA and US are, relative mirror images of each other, it’s the continued polishing of the femtrepreneurship mirror, by supporting new and existing women-owned firms, that will ensure that their glistening potency is appropriately reflected.

Numeric – Rebuilding mathematical foundations for the future

Numeric – Rebuilding mathematical foundations for the future

Amongst the many challenges of an underperforming South African education system, one of the greatest problems is the lack of numeracy foundations at ECD and Basic Education level.  The impact of this is devastating in later years, as shown clearly in the Department of Basic Education’s Annual National Assessments.

Below is the trajectory of the average percentage mark in 2014 starting from a high of 68% in Grade 1 and declining slowly to 43% by Grade 6. The real damage, however, occurs in Grade 9 where the shaky foundations take effect and the whole mathematical edifice collapses into an overall national average of 11%. The cumulative impact of not building a strong enough foundational understanding in Maths is that by Grade 9, learners would have effectively lost 90% of their understanding of the subject.

ANA results

In 2012, Prof. Jonathan Jansen noted that: 

(F)or every 100 children who enter the schooling system in South Africa, only 48 will make it to Matric. Of the 48 who make it to Matric, only 22 will take Maths as a subject. Of the 22 who take Maths as a (Matric) subject, only 10 will pass; and of the 10 who pass, only four will pass with a mark that is over 50%.

With just four out of every 100 learners leaving the schooling system with an adequate understanding of this important subject, we are not producing enough doctors, scientists, engineers, accountants and business people to build South Africa into a stable and thriving civil society.

How do we address this catastrophe and what can be done to salvage the mathematical future of some 900,000 Grade 6 learners? An innovative organisation called Numeric helps to make things add up by helping young South Africans excel in Maths by empowering them, their teachers, coaches and peer educators to be world-class.

Khan Academy 2Since establishment in October 2011, Numeric has developed a low cost, scalable model for delivering high impact learning environments in low income communities. Using a gamified, powerful, and free, online learning tool that is modelled on the Khan Academy, Numeric provides disadvantaged children with world-class video instruction through comprehensive exercises that help them master Maths content.

Salman Khan, whose model inspired Andrew Einhorn’s Numeric, are both financial services wunderkinder. Khan is a former hedge fund analyst while Einhorn was an analyst at Allan Gray. The former admits that establishing his academy was a “strange thing to do of social value”, given his background. While the latter’s father thought that Numeric was just a hobby for his Harvard Physics and Computer Science graduate son. However, this year Numeric celebrates its fourth year having reached over 3,100 children through its year-long Maths programmes in the Western Cape and Gauteng. Over 240 teachers-in-training have attended its university-level courses and over 70 Bachelor of Education students have completed year-long teaching internships.

Version 2Numeric’s winter school Maths camps are a popular, and highly competitive, annual event for their Grade 7 learners in the Western Cape and Gauteng. The camps are conducted at UCT’s and UJ’s campuses. Of Numeric’s 1,600 beneficiaries, the camps can only cater for 150 learners each at either campus. “For most of our kids, spending a week at the university campuses is their first opportunity, other than at their schools, to be at a large academic institution. It is symbolic. We hope to plant the seed of making university education an attainable dream for them. Mastering Maths is a critical step in making this dream come true,” says Einhorn.

A self-confessed Maths24 champion at school, Einhorn was thrilled to be challenged at last week’s Maths24 tournament with beneficiaries at the UJ camp. Maths24 is a game where you are given four numbers, and you need to combine all four of them to make the number 24.  For example, given the numbers 5, 4, 3 and 3, you can combine them in the following way to make 24:  (5+4) x 3 – 3 = 24. He reported later, “I was schooled by an eleven year-old from start to finish. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!”

The Foundation was inspired by Numeric’s Programme Manager, Kristen Thompson’s, enthusiasm during a site visit in June:

Numeric approaches the education crisis in a structured and sustainable way. Our approach enables us to partner directly with schools and communities by engaging schools, learners and parents. We recruit young people from the communities where we work and train them to be coaches. The greatest highlight is watching the gradual shift in attitudes and abilities of both our learners and coaches. They start the year with negative attitudes about Maths (“Maths is boring”, “Maths is difficult,” and “I can’t do Maths”) which become positive by the end of the year (“Maths is fun”, “Maths is interesting,” and “I can do Maths”).

Numeric’s 2014 results speak for themselves.

  • The overall persistence rate was 74% compared with 66% in 2013. Persistence is the percentage of learners who remain on-program for the full year.
  • The average Numeric learner scored 46.1% at endline compared with 33.7% at baseline, a gross shift of 12.4% (2013: 7.5%)
  • The average non-Numeric learner scored 32.1% at endline compared with 27.5% at baseline, a gross shift of 4.6% (2013: 2.4%)
  • The net shift attributable to Numeric was 7.8% compared with 5.1% in 2013
  • The delta attributable to Numeric was 0.60 compared with 0.34 in 2013. Delta is a statistical measure of impact and Numeric targets a range of 0.5 – 1.0.
  • Numeric learners accounted for 67 of the 100 most improved learners out of a total 4, 610 learners tested. Numeric learners account for 23% of all learners tested

improvement chart

A continuation of this positive trajectory will make a meaningful difference to SA’s long-term skills base. It proves that positive momentum in the fight to save this country’s mathematical ability is achievable with a powerful combination of technology, determination and passion. Numeric shows us that it is possible to rebuild mathematical foundations – one classroom at a time.

Learning points from the 7th ANDE Metrics from the Ground Up Conference  Author – Teri Richter

Learning points from the 7th ANDE Metrics from the Ground Up Conference Author – Teri Richter

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 8.24.59 AMOn 23 and 24 June, I represented the Foundation’s Impact Assurance team at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) 7th Metrics from the Ground Up Conference in Washington DC, USA.

The event was attended by over 90 delegates representing over 70 organisations including academic institutions, capacity development institutions and accelerator programmes, donor agencies, foundations, investors, venture capitalists and research service providers. These included representatives from the likes of The Kauffman Foundation, Acumen, DFID Impact Programme, Dev Equity, the Grameen Foundation, Mercy Corps, MIT D-Lab, Root Capital, the GIIN and Village Capital. The Foundation was represented as a capacity development programme, foundation and research body.

With the iconic capital city of Washington DC as the backdrop for a conference centred on understanding how to measure entrepreneurship at its core, the two-day event was filled with vibrant discussion, sharing personal experiences and debating best practice.  The conference created a platform for practitioners and supporting organisations to discuss what is and isn’t working in the field of tracking, monitoring, evaluating and understanding the impact of entrepreneurship as well as the programmes that are designed to support entrepreneurial development.

The key take-aways from the conference include:

1.     We are not alone

Many challenges mentioned at the conference resonated strongly with the challenges the Foundation itself faces within our Impact Assurance team, that is, the mandate to understand the impact of our programme and how we work smarter to measure this change.

2.     Although we are not alone, we are unique

The holistic and long-term approach of the Foundation is unique. It is an invaluable opportunity to be part of the Foundation as a participant and an implementer from both a programmatic as well as research perspective. Many of the programmes present chose to focus on working with individuals who are already entrepreneurs, aiding them in accelerating their success or financing their endeavours. The Foundation, on the other hand, selects individuals who have the potential to become entrepreneurs. This makes measurement somewhat more complex as our development programme needs to be measured through specific developmental outcome indicators.

3.     We are following best practice

Within our Impact Assurance team, we honour best research practices through understanding our beneficiaries’ development journey, tracking measurable outcomes within our Theory of Change and remaining fully-engaged with outcome indicators.

4.     We can learn from and implement Lean Research and evaluation

A key theme of the conference was that of Lean Research. Lean practices stem from management philosophy derived from the Toyota Production System. The Lean process was developed with the aim of creating and enhancing the value of a process through eliminating and reducing waste. Although the Lean philosophy is most practiced in the manufacturing process, the research world is strongly proposing its application in research and evaluation. The key aim of Lean Research is to create a seamless process for value creation through research by eliminating waste, implementing right-sized research which is respectful, relevant and rigorous. The most important fact is that Lean Research and evaluation is lean in execution, not necessarily lean in preparation.

5.     What you measure is what you get

This simple statement is suspiciously obvious. While you are only able to research, understand and make deductions on aspects that you have collected data on, the power of this statement lies in the implication that the work must be done up-front to understand which questions should be answered and what data will be sufficient to answer these questions. Consistent with the Lean Research process, the most effort and time should be dedicated to preparation.

Although the five learning points above are a tip of the iceberg relative to what the conference had to offer – these learnings will support and further develop the work done by the Impact Assurance team. These thoughts will spur even more vigorous and passionate debate within our team and continually strengthen our commitment to gaining a better understanding of and measuring not only our own budding entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurship worldwide.

It was a privilege to attend a conference surrounded by individuals who are passionate about entrepreneurship and dedicated to helping our community better understand the journey of entrepreneurial development.


Richter is the Foundation’s Business Intelligence Officer

What does the youth of ’76 teach us about entrepreneurship?

What does the youth of ’76 teach us about entrepreneurship?

youth-daySouth Africa is no different from the rest of the world in contending with a youth unemployment crisis. We know the stats. We’ve heard the rhetoric. As we remember the bold actions taken by the youth of Soweto, against an oppressive education regime in a now 39-year old uprising, one wonders whether a similar protest is not warranted in the context of our shallow youth entrepreneurship.

The barriers to deepening South Africa’s youth entrepreneurship include the technological divide, restricted access to capital, collateral, business networks and a lack of experience. Global consensus is that successful entrepreneurs have an average age of 35 since it is expected and accepted that, at this age, individuals leverage off life’s experiences, networks and other human resources. However the majority of young people in South Africa are “age constrained” and therefore lack the necessary skills to navigate complex entrepreneurial terrain. So what resources can inexperienced 18 – 34 year olds leverage off in South Africa?

Lesson 1 – Boost your educational qualifications

The students of ’76 knew that a quality, globally-competitive education was critical to their future. Part of the reason that survivalist enterprises do not become high-impact is that they are generally started out of desperation by people who, particularly in a country like South Africa, cannot find alternative employment – hence these enterprises provide only enough income to employ the Founder and one or two other people at best.

The GEM’s recommendations for improving our entrepreneurial climate centre around overhauling the education system with a particular focus on improving uptake and pass rates for Maths and Science and partnering with entrepreneurial role models within communities. Research supports the positive link between education and both the choice to become an entrepreneur and subsequent entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurial skills development programmes, targeted mentorship and financial support also go a long way towards bolstering the chances of survival for young entrepreneurs.

Lesson 2 – Turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones

The students of ’76 knew that they had to take a stand but they were less certain that their actions would result in meaningful change. By vocalising their discontent, they took a leap of faith and, in so doing, garnered international support for their stumbling block. The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 392 which condemned both the uprising and the apartheid government. The former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was due to visit South Africa shortly before the riot. He said that the uprisings cast a negative light on the entire country. Youth’s willingness to accept the possibility that a business may fail is a good indicator of entrepreneurial capacity. Contemporary attitudes are complicated by youth’s culture of entitlement and the perpetuation of the “bling bling” road to success by tender-preneurs. It takes years to become an overnight success.

Lesson 3 – Keep looking

The Department of Trade and Industry’s Youth Enterprise Development Strategy (2013-2023) is one example of South Africa’s ongoing efforts to stimulate youth entrepreneurship. The policy instrument intends to provide support schemes for young entrepreneurs with the objective of creating and managing sustainable businesses that are capable of providing decent permanent jobs and employment growth.It is important for young entrepreneurs to stay focussed on the bigger picture and, like the youth of ’76, to keep looking for solutions that will outlive them. The award opportunities below can help in casting the vision further. Happy Youth (Entrepreneurship) Day!

  • R100,000 up for grabs for Social Entrepreneurs in the SEIF award and R10,000 grants from the NYDA. Entries for both close on 30 June 2015
South Africa wins bid as first African country to host 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Congress

South Africa wins bid as first African country to host 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Congress

gec2012-550x200At this week’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) 2015 in Milan, the Global Entrepreneurship Network announced that Johannesburg, South Africa has won the bid to host the GEC in 2017.

Accepting the award on behalf of Johannesburg, Lindiwe Zulu, South Africa’s Minister of Small Business Development said, “This is a great opportunity for South Africa and Africa as a continent to showcase its entrepreneurial prowess to the world. The GEC is a platform that would open doors for our youth, ignite entrepreneurship and put our youth in the global arena”

The GEC is an inter-disciplinary gathering of start-up champions from more than 150 countries and attracts over 4000 delegates. These delegates represent distinct components of their entrepreneurial ecosystems and are focused on how best to help entrepreneurs start and scale new companies.

“The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) continues to expand its involvement in Africa in support of helping the next generation of entrepreneurs there to rebrand the continent and permanently shift perceptions,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network. “Johannesburg will provide an important backdrop for startup champions everywhere to come together in building one global entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The Congress has previously been held in the United States, UAE, China, UK, Brazil, Russia and Italy. South Africa is now proud to be the first African country to host the event.

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation CEO, Anthony Farr, in Milan for the GEN’s Global Entrepreneurship Research Network annual general meeting, which takes place in conjunction with the GEC, commented,” This is a once in a generation opportunity to take a leap forward in the African entrepreneurial revolution while the eyes of the world are focussed on South Africa in 2017”

In celebration of Heritage Day

In celebration of Heritage Day

Shaka1In celebrating Heritage Day it is understandable that we look to the past, yet as explained below, heritage can’t be separated from legacy. So the important question, implied by thoughts of heritage, is how we harness our current strengths and opportunities to create a future heritage that will reflect the fullness of our aspirations for the rainbow nation?  What will be our legacy towards this future?

On the 24th September, South Africans unite in celebrating our diverse cultures when we observe Heritage Day.  Originally celebrated in honour of King Shaka Zulu, the 24th of September has been written into modern South African calendar as the day on which we celebrate the diversity of the “rainbow nation”.

So what exactly does this concept of heritage mean for us in the world of developing future entrepreneurial change agents?  More than one might initially think.  Our work at the Foundation is focused on investing in a long term legacy of greatness through Allan Gray Fellows.  Our intention is that these Fellows will be focused on contributing to the Common Good, thereby providing an improved legacy for future generations to inherit.

The words legacy and heritage are very closely connected.  Heritage is defined as something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth, an inherited lot or portion or something reserved for one.  Whereas Legacy is anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. So one word is about that which is left for future generations to inherit and the other is about that which future generations inherit.  Different sides of the same coin!

IMG_5966From their very first interaction with the broader Foundation community, our potential Candidate Fellows are exposed to the concept of heritage at our Fellowship Selection camps hosted at the Cradle of Humankind. This site was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.  Throughout their time as Candidate Fellows they are exposed to a diverse range of entrepreneurs and businesses which have contributed to the rich heritage of the Southern African business landscape.  From our founding patron’s contribution to the South African investment industry through to individuals such as Herman Mashaba who created a product range targeting a growing market, South Africa’s rainbow nation has been the breeding ground for a number of diverse entrepreneurs and innovations.  Innovations such as the Kreepy Krauly, Pratley Putty, the CAT Scan, the Cyber Tracker, the Speed Gun and the Dolosse are all a testament to the richness of ideas and products that this country has produced and has the potential to produce in the future.

In coming back to celebrating the 24th September and what this day has come to mean in more recent times, while it is encouraging that many have found a common connection, whether firing up a Weber or going to a local Chesanyama on this day in the National Braai Day movement – we want more. Genuine nation building is about more than social interaction, it is about harnessing the full potential of South Africa. It is increasingly clear that the most effective means of harnessing the human potential that will bring this change is to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset on a national scale.

Can you imagine in years to come celebrating the remarkable new entrepreneurial exploits that have entered our growing and dynamic heritage? There will naturally be many other components to our future heritage, but the Foundation has become convinced that if this heritage is to include meaningful economic transformation, then we must work towards building and celebrating an entrepreneurial culture.

However you choose to celebrate Heritage Day on 24 September, I would like to challenge you to think about your legacy and the rich heritage you intend to leave behind.  What will you do?

Thinking Outside the (Glass) Box this Women’s Day – the importance of female entrepreneurship

Thinking Outside the (Glass) Box this Women’s Day – the importance of female entrepreneurship

Class of 2012 Graduation
The women of the Allan Gray Fellowship’s Class of 2012.

On the 9th of August 1956 approximately 50 000 South African women staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act, or what commonly became known as the pass laws.  Historically, women have always proven to be iconic figures in bringing about change.  Despite this, employment statistics and entrepreneurial activity do not reflect this.

In a 2011 paper titled, Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers, author Lesa Mitchell reports that in the USA, women were basically half as entrepreneurially active i.e. involved in starting a business in a given month, as their male counterparts (on average 0.44% men versus 0.24% women in the working-age population.)  Additionally, the overall share of entrepreneurial activity sits at 64.7% for men and 35.3% for women.

Closer to home, the South African early-stage entrepreneurial activity gender gap hasn’t changed since 2002.  According to the South African Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report 2013, the relative proportion of female early stage entrepreneurs has shifted 1% from 41% in 2002 to 42% in 2013. And at the highest level when was the last female winner of the South African EY Entrepreneur of the Year?

Dell in partnership with the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute released The Gender Global Entrepreneurship and Development index for 2014 which is a 30-country analysis of the conditions that foster high-potential* female entrepreneurship.  South Africa was placed 11th in this ranking with a score of 42 (tying with South Korea and China).  In a country that aspires to leadership in gender equality as enshrined in our constitution, this is not good enough.  As a country crippled by unemployment and therefore even more dependent on the well documented benefit of high potential entrepreneurship we cannot tolerate half our population not fully maximising their entrepreneurial potential. Simply, we need more high-potential female entrepreneurs!

The report provides the following recommendations as opportunities for improvement:

  1. Breaking up monopolies in the business environment that crowd out newcomers; and,
  2. Improve the use of and investment in new technologies.
  3. Increase opportunities for and shift attitudes towards women in senior management and decision making positions.
  4. Develop and support programmes that promote female entrepreneurs’ equal access to finance and the resources to grow.

Women have always been told about breaking through glass ceilings and glass walls, however, I prefer the challenge posed by Geri Stengel in the title of her book: Forget The Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One.

As we celebrate this woman’s month and the tenacity and bravery shown by those who marched on 9th August 1956, the challenge we put forward is that we need to grow and encourage not only entrepreneurship, but specifically high-potential female entrepreneurs1 who are actively creating and growing enterprises which are creating sustainable jobs.  With around 55% of the Allan Gray Fellowship being female, the Foundation is ready and waiting to take advantage of this shift. What’s your contribution to unleashing this pool of potential?  I look forward to reading your comments.


1. High-potential Definition: The Gender-GEDI identifies high potential female entrepreneurs as women who own and operate businesses that are innovative, market expanding and export oriented. Through their entrepreneurial activities, high-potential female entrepreneurs not only contribute to improving their own economic welfare but to the economic and social fabric of society through job creation, innovative products, processes, and services, and cross border trade.

African Schools for Excellence – recovering a lost word in our education

African Schools for Excellence – recovering a lost word in our education

African School for Excellence
From left: Mampho Langa (Head of School, African Schools for Excellence), Molefe Mohlamonyane (Scholarship Development Manager, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation) and Nonhlanhla Masina (Operations Manager, African Schools for Excellence)

If there is one word that has gone missing in the growing challenges facing the South African education system, it is the word excellence. Shifting the matric pass mark in some subjects to 30% and a staggering 13% of the entire South African Grade 9 cohort passing the Annual National Assessments in 2012 for Mathematics are but two higher profile examples in a sea of others. They all show an inevitable and dramatic loss of any possible claim to excellence in our country’s education.

And so in this depressing educational context it is encouraging to know that there are still initiatives that refuse to give up on the importance of educational excellence. One of these emerges from an unlikely place – Tsakane Township in the East Rand, Gauteng. It is in this township of over 100,000 people, in the middle of simple white prefabricated buildings that excellence is pursued fiercely and passionately and most importantly, successfully, at the African School for Excellence.

Tsakane African School for Excellence (“ASE”) is the first high school of many more planned in the future with a simple if not audacious mission – that their students will graduate “with the skills to succeed at the world’s best universities and with the character and leadership to transform their communities.” And if that was not already bold enough, all this will be achieved at a total cost per student of R7,000 per annum(of which parents will contribute only R200 per month.)

On arrival we are taken on our school tour not by the principal but by an engaging student, Ntokozo. She takes us through the various classrooms, pointing out that each is named after a different African country. Her passion and excitement for the school is infectious. I am slightly thrown by her first question – “How many books have you read in your life?” Not a question I have ever had to answer before (and still not sure that I know the answer), but it is indicative of the thirst for knowledge that pervades the school.

We then walk into a classroom and interrupt a lively modern interpretation of Macbeth, with the simple classroom transformed through their imagination to mediaeval England in a conveyor belt of battles and powerful speeches. In the next room the students are watching an old classic movie production of the same play on the classroom screen.

Slowly the picture of the school’s innovative “rotation” approach to education starts to take shape. Each subject is approached in a rotation consisting of three elements: Independent work, team work and instructional time. This approach is based on enquiry based learning, and harnesses the opportunity of technology, particularly in the independent work rotation, where free products such as Khan Academy can support learning. The genius of this approach is that for each cycle of three rotations a fully qualified teacher is only needed in the one rotation (instructional) while in the others academic advisors (trainee teachers) can manage the class room. This is one of the key mechanisms for achieving ASE’s low cost education. You can listen to co-founder Jay Kloppenberg discuss the ASE model here.

While all of this innovation is compelling, what has been the actual outcome? It is still too premature to make any conclusive assessment – the first class only finished grade 7 last year and are now in Grade 8. But initial reports of the progress in Grade 7 are very promising. By September 2013, only nine months after starting, 99% of the ASE scholars had achieved the standard required by British Education at the end of primary school. And this cohort of scholars were entirely drawn from Tsakane Township applications with the only bias in selection being towards teachability rather than outright performance. So within a space of nine months ASE transformed these township children into globally competitive learners. The immediate goal is that later this year students from ASE will be in the Top 1% of the Grade 9 Annual National Assessments (“ANA”) – while they are still in Grade 8!

Yet as impressive as one finds the model, my lasting impression was of the people involved. They are the real soul of this initiative:

Including our host Nonhlanhla Masina, the operations manager, a suitably broad description to cover her multitude of responsibilities.  She is a graduate of Tsakane, walking eight kilometres every day to high school, and now having obtained an honours degree in biochemistry at Wits University, while at the same time spending any free minute growing the vision of ASE

Or the Head of School, Mampho Langa. She was previously the Head of Academics at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls but has given up the comfort of Henley on Klip for the dust of Tsakane to be part of this grand educational initiative. Their commitment to the vision and the genuine sacrifices they have already made to make it happen are inspiring.

The values of African Schools for Excellence.
The values of African Schools for Excellence.

My colleague and I left Tsakane with the words of ASE co-founder Jay Kloppenberg echoing in our heads: “One thing I am sure of: the problem is not the students. South Africa’s townships are filled with exceptionally bright, hard-working learners with enormous potential. The vast majority do not receive the quality of schooling they require to reach their ambitious goals”

ASE is one small example that excellence need not be lost in South African education. But if educational prospects can be turned around so powerfully with a little vision, clear focus and lots of hard work, at no additional cost, why are we all so accepting of mediocrity elsewhere? We let our children down if we do not expect more from all of those within the system from parents, guardians, teachers to government and learners. Ultimately expectations drive outcomes.

I, for one, will be waiting for this year’s ANA results with even more interest than usual to see whether a small group of learners from the East Rand can decisively demonstrate how excellence has indeed been recovered. Incidentally, talking about expecting more, did I mention that the required pass mark for learners at ASE is 80%?