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:

Travel

  • 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.

Talent

  • 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 info@allangrayorbis.org

Thank you for your adherence to the above. We trust in the commitment and cooperation of our community to ensure that we handle this situation with care, responsibility and consideration for the important work our organisation still has to do in the midst of this challenging time.

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 (www.nalibali.org) 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

 

 

Scholarship Development Camp: Grade 10 & 11

Scholarship Development Camp: Grade 10 & 11

The picturesque town of Franschhoek was the setting for the grade 10 and 11 Allan Gray Orbis Foundation National Development Camp. This town is rooted in history and is a stone’s throw away from the Klein Drakenstein Prison, the iconic setting of Nelson Mandela’s release and the emergence of a new democracy. The place where the South African dream of an equal South Africa for all took flight.

The Foundation’s vision of an equitable South Africa is driven by our belief that a community of high impact responsible entrepreneurs will positively shape the economic, social and political landscape of our beloved country. We also know that this takes time and patience to bring to bear a transformed South Africa. It is in the hands of our beneficiaries to take up the challenge and it is our duty to empowering these bright sparks. However, this journey to empowerment is not a quick fix with short-term change but rather sustainable change and movement toward personal dignity and courage.

The Scholar Development Programme comprises of various interventions of which the National Development Camp is one. It is a pitstop in our Scholars’ journey toward growing themselves and their entrepreneurial mindset in preparation of the Fellowship opportunity. In his book, Seven Habit of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey say that personal victory leads to public victory and this means knowing yourself equals winning in the game of life. For this reason, one of the core foci of the Development programme is Personal Mastery. In support of this we hosted Personal Mastery sessions dealing with identity, choice and diversity which highlighted the challenges Scholars navigate daily. Scholars identified with diverse issues such as not fitting in and the fear of being different among other. These sessions also saw Scholars emboldened toward personal change and the roots of transformation evident in their reflection on the transformative power of the sessions.

One of the broader aims of the Foundation is to build a community of like-minded individuals who may affect future change. The Fellowship host Jamboree, a space where Candidate Fellows can grow their entrepreneurial muscle and pitch their ideas to a cohort of their peers. The Scholars were given the opportunity to be a part of Jamboree, gaining direct access to Candidate Fellows and Association members. Among the Candidate Fellows Scholars also met up with Scholar Alumni who had made the transition into the Fellowship programme. A handful of Scholars also took some time to pitch their ideas at the Jamboree.

Finally, the Scholars were taken on a journey that explored the concept of entrepreneurial mindsets. They were given scope to ideate, present, design and prototype a response to the challenges outlined in the National Development Plan (NDP). To give context to how young South Africans are addressing issues related to the NDP Scholar used Dadewethu, a social entrepreneurial business, who provides solutions for the lack of support for females at the university campus of UCT (University of Cape Town) as a live case study. Scholars then had an opportunity to experience bringing their ideas to life at the Maker-Space in Observatory, Cape Town giving them the opportunity to apply their understanding of entrepreneurial mindset in a live simulation.

There was a general sense that this Development Camp galvanised Scholars resolve to remain connected to the Foundation pipeline.

 

Accelerated Entrepreneurship: A Taste of the Real Thing

Accelerated Entrepreneurship: A Taste of the Real Thing

For one weekend only, the graduating Fellows of 2016 left their ordinary comfortable lives of new employment or post-graduate studies to occupy a seat at the executive table of New Horizons Financial Services. This pilot Accelerated Entrepreneurship Assessment Lab spearheaded by the Association aimed at developing the personal and entrepreneurial mind-sets of the latest cohort of fellows.

One would think that having being on the Foundation from year engage to experience, the Fellows would be well equipped to develop and implement a turnaround strategy in a company over a weekend. The reality of the situation was that when faced with decisions relating to cutting costs in order to achieve a higher returns, Fellows needed direction as to how to do this effectively. This highlighted the fact that no matter how well read you are about entrepreneurship, you still need guidance through the practical elements in order to succeed.

Over the course of the weekend, Fellows were tasked with managing a company in the financial services sector for three years. A high pressure environment was created by the volume of information that teams had to digest in a limited time period. And competition, of course. The mandate for the three years was clear: increase return on equity, customer and employee satisfaction while simultaneously decreasing costs. Teams were given a board pack outlining the operations, strategy and financials of New Horizons from which they had to develop a strategy on how to achieve the objective at hand.  After each financial year, the teams’ performance was evaluated. Some teams made bold moves by firing half of their work force in the first year only to hire most of them again in the second and third year. Other teams decided to focus on staff development in order to improve client service and sustain brand loyalty while others increased capital investments in the information technology and systems integration. It was evident that all the teams knew which aspects to focus on. The difficulty came in prioritising which aspect to focus on and when.

These decisions resulted in robust discussions amongst the Fellows that challenged them to think about entrepreneurship holistically instead simply focusing on increasing return on equity. The winning team, Multiply, comprised of engineers and a scientist. Multiply won because they were confident in their strategy despite the poor financial performance they experienced in the first year and consistently applied their strategy.  This reinforced the idea that entrepreneurship is about diversity of thought amongst people who are willing to work together and endure the test of time in order to achieve a common goal.

The simulation did not only give Fellows a skillset on how to make the tough business decisions but also challenged them to think about what entrepreneurship means to them individually and what it looks like. As fellows returned to their ordinary lives, the facilitators encouraged them to interrogate the initial intention driving them towards entrepreneurship and the need this intention addressed. The Accelerated Entrepreneurship lab unlocked each teams’ entrepreneurial potential. Now it’s up to the Fellows, “to harness it, hone it, tap into it, nurture it, nourish it, guide it and watch it grow.”