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Allan Gray Orbis Foundation: A good story to tell

In April, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was awarded the Research Champion Award at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, held in Istanbul, for the pioneering research it has done on the entrepreneurial mindset. This recognition, along with the continued success of its beneficiaries, is testament to the Foundation’s focused efforts. Yogavelli Nambiar reviews highlights from the year thus far.

Over the past 13 years, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has nurtured and supported 43 high-impact entrepreneurs who have, in turn, created 679 jobs and added a combined R1.5bn t o the economy. Looking at the progress we have made this year, we believe we are well on track to seeing this number increase significantly.

Our Scholarship programme: Where it all begins

Our ethos is grounded in the understanding that entrepreneurship is a mindset. In addition to unique skills and acumen, to succeed as an entrepreneur one also needs intellectual imagination, personal initiative, courageous commitment, a spirit of significance and achievement excellence. This is why the Scholarship is so central to our work: It's our most powerful tool in fashioning an entrepreneurial outlook among young people.

Thirty-eight Scholars have graduated from the programme this year, 20 of whom are joining the Fellowship to continue their entrepreneurial education as Candidate Fellows. We are also proud of the other graduates who have moved on to other programmes that provide yet another platform from which to make a positive impact.

Melissa Bam, a Grade 11 learner from Clarendon High School in East London, has been invited to Ghana to participate in the Yale Young African Scholars Program in August. The Program is designed to help bright Africans between the ages of 14 and 18 to explore their chosen field through seminars and participating in projects to gain hands-on experience. Each student is then assigned a mentor to help them apply to Yale University, secure a scholarship, and prepare for the college admissions tests. They will also have access to leadership development and training to get them ready for Yale’s competitive environment.

Two more Scholarship students, Thandiswa Nkosi and Musa Selela, both Grade 10 learners at St Mary’s School, visited Accra, Ghana, in June as part of a student exchange programme with a sister St Mary’s school in Ghana.

Fellowship: Taking shape

There were 399 Candidate Fellows (students that, if successful in achieving certain hurdle marks, will be admitted to the Fellowship) taking part in the programme this year – the largest number to date. Of course it’s not quantity that matters, but quality, and here, too, we have reason to smile: The top three Fellows from our annual Jamboree – where all Candidate Fellows get together for an event that concludes with the best ideas for an enterprise being pitched to an external panel – took part in the African Leadership University’s Innovate Initiative. Hosted in Mauritius in April, the initiative gave Fellows the opportunity to explore the Mauritian economy from an entrepreneur’s perspective.

We were excited to launch Iintetho Zobomi at our Connect Camp, a weekend camp for second-year students with a focus on community-building, which also took place in April. This course encourages participants to explore their role as ethical agents, not only in their own lives, but also in their communities and country. Our goal is to develop a sense of humility and morality as part of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Association: The fruits of our labour

This year, 55 Fellows were admitted to the Association, which is made up of Fellows who have completed the Fellowship Programme and have entered the world of work. This brings the total number of Fellows to 382. As of the end of 2017, the number of new businesses started by these Fellows is 48. In addition, 20 new businesses (half of which are headed by Candidate Fellows) entered our Ideation, Validation and Creation (IVC) programme as they strive to validate their business ideas. This is particularly significant for us as these 20 new start-ups have the potential to become job creators and contribute to our economy.

A number of innovative business ideas have been put forward. Khula is an enterprise developed by Karidas Tshintsholo and Matthew Piper to connect producers with customers seeking locally grown fresh produce. Splush Mobile is a convenient car wash service, while Jonga, founded by 2016 Jamboree winner Ntando Shezi, makes home security more accessible and affordable by offering community-based home security systems.

iSpani, established by Candidate Fellows Prince Nwadeyi and Ntandoyenkosi Shezi in partnership with Fellow Gerard Govender and UCT student Patrick Machekera, is a platform that helps companies sell their brands in township markets. Kazi Tech, founded by Candidate Fellow Mvelo Hlophe, connects start-ups seeking mobile and web development with student-led developer teams, while Santina Iya has established Rydwith, a platform for linking security companies and vulnerable students to ensure safe movement on and around campus.

Mzwenhlanhla Hlongwane, on the other hand, has created Nisa Finance, a fully automated collateralised invoice financing solution that plugs into the RainFin platform to allow crowd investors to grow their capital by lending to small and medium enterprises that have invoices to be paid out in the future.

Moving forward: Curriculum development

We have recently established a Curriculum Development team tasked with reviewing our current learning activities and experiences in all areas of the Foundation. The team is also responsible for developing initiatives to enhance our effectiveness. Several of these initiatives have already been implemented, including a flipped classroom-style camp activity to help Grade 8 and 9 learners get to grips with entrepreneurship as a real-life concept.

Some of the ideas generated by our learners have the potential to be socially significant, such as a digital library device, while other exciting ideas could solve everyday angst, like a barcode system for boarding schools to prevent students’ socks getting lost.

We have also revamped the Ignitions, helping our Fellows gain more experiential and true-to-life development.

This initiative is a practical, idea-generating activity where potential entrepreneurial concepts are submitted by our Candidate Fellows to the Foundation as part of developing their entrepreneurial mindset.

Finally, we have launched the Entrepreneurial Induction, a five-week learning programme that aims to help Talent (the Foundation staff) and Fellows put entrepreneurship in context. Whether they are thinking about starting their own business, curious about the world of entrepreneurship or looking to understand more of how to become an entrepreneurial leader, this course helps contextualise entrepreneurship for them. We are particularly excited about the application of this programme as it was developed internally and we believe will prove invaluable in helping participants in our revamped IVC programme launch their ideas to our sister organisation, E Squared, for funding opportunities.

As we conclude the first half of the year, we are pleased with the progress we have already made and will continue to review our programmes to ensure we add maximum value to our beneficiaries.

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