Yogavelli Nambiar, the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, reviews some of the achievements of Scholars, Fellows and entrepreneurs in South Africa to dispel the view that the country is "on the entrepreneurial decline".
A recent blog written by Avi Lasarow of DNAFit Life Sciences poetically begins: "Knowing the real South Africa is to know, and be familiar with, the ambitious entrepreneurial spirit that runs through its tributaries and flows like a river into the heart of a nation."
This is a beautiful and inspiring tribute to our country, which is often viewed as being "on the entrepreneurial decline" based on the results of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Ranked among the lowest in the perception of business opportunities or entrepreneurial intent by young people, the 2016-17 report also found South Africa to have lower averages of ownership of early and established businesses than our counterparts in the sub-Saharan region. Yet, necessity-based entrepreneurship, not viewed to be job-creating or growth-oriented, had increased due to high unemployment levels and slow economic growth.
In contrast, the more qualitative Global Entrepreneurship Index, driven by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute, placed South Africa as an entrepreneurial leader in sub-Saharan Africa, second only to Botswana.
One needs only to look at the many disruptive entrepreneurs... to know that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in our country.
To delve deeper into these results, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and the South African Breweries (SAB) Foundation commissioned research to look into the local entrepreneurship ecosystem with the intention of providing evidence that guides and supports resourcing plans and policymaking going forward.
The resultant report states that entrepreneurs in South Africa have overcome structural factors, including the country's slow GDP growth rate and the density of large firms dominating the business market, to produce some of the most successful enterprises on the continent. In addition, South Africa is on a par with other middle-income countries around the world when it comes to entrepreneurship levels, and is poised to achieve further growth in years to come.
One needs only to look at the many disruptive entrepreneurs, enabling large-scale change through sustainable and innovative solutions, to know that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in our country. The Foundation itself was formed on the back of a strong belief in the power of such entrepreneurial leaders to change the world.
Allan Gray Fellows are making a difference in society. In 2007, Ludwick Marishane invented DryBath, a gel that does all the work of a bath without water - a significant solution for communities without water or sanitation. Four years later, he won the Global Student Entrepreneur Award and today, is the founder of Headboy Industries, an innovative product development and commercialisation company. More recently, Ludwick has been lauded by Time magazine as one of 30 young people who are changing the world, and by Google as one of the world's brightest young minds.
This year, some of our Fellows, armed with entrepreneurial ambition and talent, joined our Ideation, Validation and Creation (IVC) unit to build, test and progress their business ideas. Partnerships have formed between Fellows, and seven businesses have gone on to be funded and supported by our financing partner, E Squared. These include Ben Shaw's HouseME, an innovative online property rental agency, using a first-of-its-kind auction process to set pricing; Nkateko Mathebula's Kay-Tee Automotive Components, a business that provides high-quality components and meaningful aftersales service and support for medium to large local commercial automotive fleets, and AgriMASH Industries, a rural-based agribusiness that grows and supplies affordable, high-quality fresh produce, started by Thato Mahosi.
Akosua Koranteng, who started natural haircare business ANiM Naturals, completed the IVC and Accelerator programmes in 2016 and received follow-on funding from E Squared. She recently landed a national deal for distribution with Clicks, and has been joined by another Fellow, Zara Hammerschlag, to run and grow the business.
The Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge
To grow the pipeline of talented individuals applying for the Fellowship, and as a direct response to a need identified by principals of our Scholarship schools, the Foundation created an online-based game which could be used by teachers to support the development of entrepreneurial mindsets at schools. Through the support of Allan Gray, this game was launched in 161 schools across the country, enabling teachers to engage learners on various elements of entrepreneurship in a competition format.
After 4 431 learners were involved on the platform, 20 were chosen for their outstanding participation and three were awarded the overall winners' prize of trips to Silicon Valley.
The Foundation continues to review and enhance the support we provide - to ensure we remain relevant and impactful to our beneficiaries and other stakeholders.
Some of the achievements of Foundation beneficiaries in 2017
As we enter into 2018, we pause to celebrate some of the achievements of the past year. We are proud to have won Best Funder in Secondary Education at the African Leaders 4 Change Awards. But we are even more proud of the many achievements of our Scholars, Candidate Fellows and Fellows. One of our Scholars received Gold in the Science Expo NMMU regional competition, and others have travelled for sport, art and engaged in exchange programmes.
Our Candidate Fellows have their own success stories, from attending the African Youth Leadership Summit in Morocco and the WFUNA International Model United Nations Conference in New York, to winning awards for innovation and sport, and performing solo at Carnegie Hall in New York. A Candidate Fellow was one of four (out of
45 applicants) selected to be part of an incubation initiative after pitching in the French South African Tech Labs Challenge at the first-ever AfricArena International Conference in Cape Town. Others have received academic awards, with one being a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship.
Many other achievements demonstrate the Foundation's values. One of the Fellows received the Ubuntu Youth Diplomacy Award. Another "adopted" 10 youth-headed families as part of her new business's social outreach. They will be assisting the families over the next year with their nutrition and education needs, as well as exposure to internships - an amazing achievement for a young business.
The way forward
Twelve years since inception, the Foundation continues to review and enhance the support we provide to Scholars, Candidate Fellows at universities and the community of Allan Gray Fellows to ensure we remain relevant and impactful to our beneficiaries and other stakeholders.
In light of the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we aim to continuously interrogate how we future-proof our young leaders amid the fast pace of change they face to help them better understand how to engage with new markets, environments and situations. Using more technology in selection and programme activities, as well as designing customised support for women, social and green entrepreneurs are high on our agenda.
2018 holds much promise of refinement and exponential growth, and we are looking forward to the journey.