Responsible Business

Responsible Business

Henry Ford once said that “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” With environmental and social conditions encouraging consumers to look more closely at the businesses they choose to support, this statement has never held more true.

At the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, sustainability is more than a buzz word. Indeed, the organisation was born out of the drive to create sustainable social and economic impact. By creating a vehicle that would do more than generate funds; it would also help to address the triple scourge of poverty, joblessness and marginalization that afflicted black South Africans at the time (and which continues to undermine the country’s economy). This was the sentiment which prompted our founder, Mr Allan Gray, to write to government in 1984, asking for permission to create such a vehicle. Mr Gray envisioned a fund that would make it possible for more black South Africans to participate in the formal economy, thus helping to alleviate many of the challenges the country faced. Given that apartheid was at its zenith during this time, his request was summarily dismissed – but his desire to create change remained unabated.

We are lucky that Mr Gray remained so intensely focused on this goal, because in 2005 – several years into our democracy – poverty and inequality remained entrenched in South Africa, destabilizing both its society and economy. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation therefore was birthed with the goal of responding to both of these concerns, by working towards an entrepreneurial, equitable South Africa flourishing with meaningful employment. Leveraging the legacy of the financial organisation which spawned it, it also continued Allan Gray’s value system; most notably, upholding his goal of effecting systemic change through entrepreneurship. With this in mind, since inception, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has focused unwaveringly on the development of high school and university programmes that combines a great educational foundation with it’s core focus to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in all its beneficiaries.

But this isn’t simply about raising a generation of business owners. Our goal is to create a cohort of people who are aware of the problems facing society, and who are eager – and able – to find ways to solve them.

Sustainability: Part of our DNA

This points to the fact that sustainability is in our DNA. For many, the concept of sustainability is a tricky one to comprehend fully, because we’re accustomed to looking at it through the lens of the environment – but sustainability is, in fact, a far broader issue, and should be looked at in the context of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria. In fact, this framework may be considered the foundation of any sustainable business. After all, for true sustainability to be achieved, each of these pillars must be addressed. Each is intrinsically linked, and one invariably impacts on the other.

In South Africa, the burden facing businesses in terms of sustainability is an especially significant one, encompassing as it does issues related to B-BBEE – not to mention the social challenges that continue to hamper our growth and development.

This is why the Foundation’s definition of entrepreneurship extends beyond traditional models, or even the idea that grabs most young aspirants; that of founding a “sexy” startup, attracting venture capital and retiring at a young age. For us, it’s about harnessing the power of entrepreneurship as a tool that may be able to solve those social problems; not only the ones that make headlines daily, like poverty, but those which affect the overall wellbeing of our communities, country and planet, such as health and energy alternatives. At the same time, we’re well aware of the contrast between the glamour that surrounds startups and the realities of this brand of responsible entrepreneurship; just as we’re aware that unethical behaviour such as corruption have greater appeal than the hard slog of chipping away at a problem until you find the solution. Our challenge, therefore, lies in making responsible, ethical entrepreneurship something to feel excited about.

This task is made more complicated by a world where even some of our major companies fail to set an example. Indeed, many of the behemoths that currently shape not only our economies but also our thinking falls short – despite their undoubtedly honourable intentions at inception. This is where sustainability really starts kicking in, because all too often, companies are built on foundations that appear solid, yet slowly start to erode in pursuit of growing a profit.

Keeping our promises

Granted, living up to the claims made early on in a company’s life is a big responsibility, and can be difficult to navigate. Doing so requires a lifetime commitment to being mindful. And to honour this commitment, it’s necessary to first acknowledge that business doesn’t exist within a vacuum. More than this, with the business environment in a state of constant flux, companies are under pressure to evolve. One look at the changing priorities of organisations confirms this: a few years ago, racial, rather than gender, diversity topped the list of concerns. Now, the absence of the female voice in the workplace leads the agenda. This points to the importance of keeping track of societal injustices.

Again, this speaks to our ethos: it’s not enough for a business to be built on an exciting idea. To have true impact, it needs to solve a societal problem. This is why entrepreneurship starts with a question: what is bothering me at the moment? Chances are, if it’s bothering you, it’s bothering other people, too. And, by addressing these issues, you’re not only bettering life for the current generation, but for generations to come.

While the Foundation addresses issues related to society through entrepreneurship education and development, it also attempts to be a good corporate citizen, by tending to environmental challenges by minimising water wastage and electricity consumption, while also increasing its recycling efforts. Initiatives related to governance, meanwhile, aim to create a measure which provides stakeholders confidence in our commitment to responsible entrepreneurship. This is what drives us to strive to maintain our record of clean audits and maintain an independent Board – it’s all in the name of walking our talk. This is part of the long-term orientation we believe lies at the core of sustainability.

Celebrating successes

This long-term outlook is key to our functioning, too – as it befits an organisation dedicated to a career path where overnight success is a myth that is propagated often. We have firsthand experience of this in our own operations. In 15 years, we have supported over 1900 beneficiaries’ educational and mindset development journeys through the Scholarship, Fellowship and Association programmes whilst developing an entrepreneurial mindset of over 25000 youth through the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge. To date, 168 of those are perusing entrepreneurship and 68 are full-time entrepreneurs. Two of those businesses are valued at R 1 Billion each. This is proof that our approach is achieving success: rather than aiming to create a swathe of entrepreneurs who do not, in fact, have an entrenched entrepreneurial mindset or who do not apply the principles of entrepreneurship to create sustainable, high impact businesses. Our goal is to leave a lasting impression on those we do reach. This objective is driven by our understanding that our entrepreneurs will have a higher propensity to take entrepreneurial action if we develop these individuals holistically, practically and tailored to their specific developmental areas.

Most notably, an entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t flourish instantly; rather, it is a way of viewing the world that is nurtured over time and does not always translate to immediate action. Our aim has always been to support beneficiaries while they complete their studies as education is important leverage, and then continue to support them as they enter the world of work and gain the experience, insights and social capital that would set them up for success when they were ready to start their own ventures. Indeed, age has been shown to be a major indicator of entrepreneurial success, with many studies revealing that the most successful business founders tend to be older than 35.

Looking forward…

As we move forward, our long-term orientation becomes even more important. We’ve encapsulated this future focus in our Vision 2030. Chief among these is our objective of seeing 500 new high impact businesses created by our participants; 10 of which would be valued at R1 billion each. When you look at our outcomes from this angle, the proportionate return on investment is expected to be significant.

What’s more, these companies will have an impact that goes far beyond their balance sheets, thanks to the social return on investment. That’s because we’re doing more than simply educating a single individual. We’re also going beyond, helping them to build a specific mindset which will equip them to face a number of obstacles while inspiring them to join the next generation of entrepreneurs. We are, in fact, looking at the family behind that person who will be forever changed; in many cases, our beneficiaries are the first in their family to attend university, effectively breaking a long-standing cycle. That’s before we take into account the nature of the businesses these beneficiaries will go on to establish, many of which will have long-reaching impacts on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

All told, we’re confident that identifying and supporting the dynamic young changemakers of the future is the way to go. That said, there have been many learnings along the way; learnings which we hope will be useful to other companies seeking to entrench sustainability.

Learning from the past

Obviously, it takes a lot of planning to get things right. If we don’t think about the future, all hopes of sustainability will be dashed. That’s why the Foundation takes care to build up our internal reserves, so that we are able to cover any shortfalls that are not addressed by our donation (which amounts to 7% of Allan Gray Propriety Limited’s profits). We believe that this is a smart strategy for any NGO concerned with sustainability, because it creates resilience in an unpredictable world.

That long-term orientation mentioned earlier is also critical. For me, it comes down to keeping an eye to the future, rather than focusing solely on the present. That means ensuring that any business decisions you make takes into account that the funds you’re able to access right now might change down the line – even if it’s simply because you want or need to scale operations. In other words, you have to build ‘what if’ scenarios into your thinking – something I have found is often lacking – because when the world changes (as it will), you need to have the resources to be able to pivot along with it.

Your far-sightedness should extend to considering all areas of the business, rather than your primary focus area. Yes, it’s vital to offer a quality product or service – but whether you’re an NGO or a corporate, you still need the support of strong marketing, finance and HR teams. Your entity will rely on these teams for different reasons: when the going is good, you need the marketing function to tell everyone; when times change, you need an encouraging HR team to rally the troops and keep everyone focused on a single direction. And, whether times are good or bad, you need your finance function to make sure you have money squirrelled away for a rainy day – because, believe me, they will come.

I’d also like to highlight the importance of monitoring and evaluation – even for NGOs. For a long time, it was sufficient for Public Benefit Organisations to get by on their good intentions, but that’s no longer enough. We at the Foundation have a rigorous approach based on our very meticulous Theory of Change which acts as our North Star and incremental steps to arrive at the most favorable outcome. Similarly, annually we approach our strategies on cascading goals, and that keeps us accountable to our stakeholders.

Of course, the fact remains that no matter how much we achieve, we always want to do more. I am always reminded of the words of our Founder, Mr Gray, who told our Fellows upon graduation that although they have many reasons to celebrate, there is much work still to be done. That’s so true, and it’s something all companies would do well to remember – it’s exciting to start on a journey, but once you have started, it will take all your resilience, creativity and steadfastness to your vision, mission and values to see it through sustainably.


Karen Gabriels, Head of Finance and Operations
Entrepreneurship pathway opens for Grade 12 change agents

Entrepreneurship pathway opens for Grade 12 change agents

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.”

Are you a Grade 12 who ticks these boxes?
  • 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.

How to apply:

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.

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows at the frontline in South Africa’s fight against COVID-19

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows at the frontline in South Africa’s fight against COVID-19

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.




COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Update

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

Stakeholder Engagement

  • 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

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.

In memory of Allan William Buchanan Gray (8 April 1938 – 10 November 2019)

In memory of Allan William Buchanan Gray (8 April 1938 – 10 November 2019)

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 Allan William Buchanan Gray

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is saddened to announce the passing of Allan William Buchanan Gray

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.”

Fake News Statement

Fake News Statement

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has noted with great concern an article headlined: Allan Gray lends a hand to South African families with revolutionary Bitcoin Home Based Opportunity, published on a replicated version of online news platform Fin24 recently.

The article alleges that the founder of Allan Gray Investment, Mr Allan Gray “launched a revolutionary new business opportunity via his non-profit Allan Gray Orbis Foundation”. The article claims that Mr Gray invested R12 million into developing software that will enable South Africans to trade in cryptocurrencies.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation would like to categorically state that the information presented in this article is false and can confirm that the Fin24 site – a business and finance platform that falls under the Media24 Group has been falsely recreated.

We condemn the spreading of fabricated news in the strongest terms and commit to continue protecting the integrity of our brand locally and internationally against these digital offenders.





It all starts with a story | By: Nicole Dunn

It all starts with a story | By: Nicole Dunn

As part of our Allan Gray Orbis Legacy Project, the Year Experience Candidate Fellows partnered with Nal’ibali (isiXhosa for “here’s the story”) to promote multilingual literacy and a love for reading. As a year group, we value the power of education and cultural relevance in literary development. When looking for a partner to collaborate with, Nal’ibali was the perfect fit. The national organisation aims to foster reading-for-enjoyment among South Africa’s children by training adults to be reading role models and activists; raising awareness about the importance of reading for enjoyment; and producing, translating and distributing books and stories in all South African languages.

Our fundraising campaign ran over a number of months, and donors were given the opportunity to write a personalised inscription to the reader they were supporting. With the help and generosity of our network, we raised enough money to donate a mobile library and box of stationery to Chumisa Primary School in Khayelitsha.

At the hand-over event, we celebrated the efforts of Ms Gcotyelwa Gcogco Mwahleni, an isiXhosa and Creative Arts teacher, who founded a reading club at Chumisa. Sis’ Gcogco, as she is affectionately known, is a role model to the 30 students who attend her reading club each week. She encourages her learners to create plays from the stories she reads, helping to build their confidence and relate the concepts to their own lives. Through her efforts, the students have come to develop a love for reading, participating in community literacy programmes and spelling bee competitions.

Educators like Sis’ Gcocgo are heroes not only to their students, but to the country as a whole. They play a critical role in nurturing young potential and instilling self-belief in children who do not always come from supportive circumstances. We are honoured to recognise and celebrate her commitment to education, and to contribute the resources she needs to grow her reading club initiative.

As a year group, we believe that a legacy is not something that is left for people, but left in people. Through this campaign, we sought to leave a legacy in South Africa’s future readers and leaders, who we hope will grow to share their own stories of success. These narratives have the power to empower and transform communities, by inspiring children to believe in themselves, and that their dreams are possible.

After all, it all starts with a story.


Nal’ibali currently has 2 179 reading clubs active in all 9 provinces that reach 64 609 children. To date, it has trained 14 689 people to be reading champions for children/to support children’s literacy development. To find out more about the exceptional work that the organisation does, visit their website ( or Facebook page (@nalibaliSA).

The appointment of our new CEO

The appointment of our new CEO

It is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of our new CEO, Yogavelli Nambiar.

Yogavelli succeeds Anthony Farr, who tendered his resignation earlier this year after 12 years at the helm of the Foundation. He will be moving on to take up responsibilities for Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropies (Africa), a philanthropic arm of the Allan & Gill Gray Foundation.

At the time of his resignation, Anthony said: “The greatest adventure of my life was being part of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. But as with any adventure there comes a time to step aside.” Yogavelli inherits a well-established Foundation, equipped to embrace a range of new challenges associated with the modern world and to further grow the organisation.

“We are pleased to welcome Yogavelli to her new role as CEO of the Foundation. She has so many insights to offer and we look forward to drawing on her long line of experience developing entrepreneurs across the African continent,” says board chairman, Professor Njabulo Ndebele.

Professor Ndebele again thanked Anthony, who he says delivered well on the Foundation’s inception mandate to invest, inspire and develop individuals who will go on to become high impact, responsible entrepreneurs capable of transforming the future of the Southern African Region.

As the new CEO, Yogavelli joins the Foundation with extensive experience, having previously founded and headed up the Enterprise Development Academy at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), business school of the University of Pretoria as its Director, where she led the entrepreneurship efforts of the school within the centre. Prior to that she was Country Director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative and led the design and delivery of this successful international women’s entrepreneurship programme in South Africa.

“I am excited to be part of the brainchild of Allan Gray and to work alongside a long line of capable individuals who work tirelessly to help make a sustainable, long-term and positive contribution to Southern Africa. Thank you to the board for entrusting me in my capacity as the Foundation’s new CEO,” Yogavelli says.

Professor Ndebele concludes: “Yogavelli’s experience and expertise will ensure future opportunities are harnessed while building on the institutional capabilities of the Foundation in the process.”

You Can’t Win the Raffle If You Don’t Buy a Ticket

You Can’t Win the Raffle If You Don’t Buy a Ticket

The 2017 Allan-Gray Orbis Foundation Jamboree event is an incredible opportunity to expose your idea to a world of possibility. Your idea is interrogated, torn-up and built-up by a room filled with bright students. This has opened up many doors for us including meeting the executives of Zoona, Silicon Cape and a large part of the tech-ecosystem in and around Cape Town.

We are currently building our MVP and are incubated with the Telkom Innotech Programme at the Bandwidth Barn.

This is our story;

“The Jamboree experience began before we had even arrived at Jamboree. My partner (Sinqobile Mashalaba) and I were on the late transport set to arrive the Friday evening. We had discussed the prospect of pitching our idea that weekend but given how little thought and effort we had given it, the consensus was that we would be underprepared and, hence, very easily overlooked. Boy, how wrong were we!

Don’t get me wrong, our business idea had undergone about 8 weeks of intense incubation and we were in the process of concluding our first transaction. So we had some traction behind us but, coming straight out of exams, we did not have a pitch-deck ready nor did we have any notion of our pitch structure or how we would respond to some tough questions. Nonetheless, we made a bold decision to put ourselves out there for the community to see. Though we lacked much, what we did have was a strong sense of purpose and validation.Simon Sinek put it best in a Ted Talk when he spoke about how people care much, much more about WHY you are doing something than WHAT it is you are actually doing. Before you can sell product, you must sell purpose. So, with that motivation, my partner and I decided to put Hlanganisa down as a Wildcard. Then, it all began…

We did not much sleep that weekend- which was difficult considering we had just come off an intense exam period. We persevered because there was strong sense of conviction to present Hlanganisa in the best way possible. In all honesty, it had very little to do with winning. It had almost everything to do with growing because as an early stage start up, your idea and the work that you have put into it is all you have. And if you are going to present it on a platform such as Jamboree, you got to give it all you got. Anything less is a disservice to your business idea and to the time and energy you have put into it.

The Open Canvas happened on Saturday and the responses we were receiving were unbelievable. On the one hand, we were receiving validation that what we are doing is necessary and makes sense (which is always so good to hear!) while on the other, we were receiving advice and tips on how we could do it better. Having made it into the top 10, excitement and nerves were high- but so was physical fatigue. We do not think we will ever be able to explain how we were able to get up on that stage and pitch, given the state we were in, but we did and it was WELL WORTH IT!.

Winning Jamboree is something We will always be proud of. We encourage every Candidate Fellow to open themselves up to at least one Jamboree experience. As the old saying goes: ”You can’t win the raffle if you don’t buy a ticket.”

– Hlanganisa Team