In 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!
From 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?