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Allan Gray Orbis Foundation update: Rising together

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was established in 2005 as part of Allan W B Gray’s vision of making a sustainable, long-term contribution to Southern Africa by nurturing the entrepreneurial potential in the region. It is funded by an arrangement that Mr. Gray put in place for Allan Gray to annually donate 5% of its pre-tax profits. Dr. Nontobeko Mabizela, CEO of the Foundation, reflects on the past year, acknowledging growth and celebrating achievements, and offers some insight into the Foundation’s vision for the future.

The Foundation's vision of an empowered, prosperous, productively engaged African citizenry, thriving in ethical societies with dignity and hope, stands tall – a testament to our commitment to make a lasting impact. Our ambitious Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) resonate as beacons guiding our mission. One of these goals is to empower the participants in our programmes to establish 500 ventures by 2030, 10 of which should be valued at R1bn, and together creating 30 000 jobs. The goal is for these ventures to be financially stable, and sustainable. In the tapestry of our vision, each thread is meticulously woven with the collective determination to make a difference.

At its core, the Foundation invests in the education and development of individuals with entrepreneurial potential …

Our commitment to preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs is unwavering. We empower young minds with the skills and mindset needed for success through a revamped curriculum and online learning platforms for our Scholarship Programme (for high school learners), Fellowship Programme (for university students, known as Candidate Fellows) and mentorship programmes, including for programme alumni who became fully fledged Allan Gray Fellows and joined the Association of Allan Gray Fellows.

A glimpse of our impact: Nurturing excellence

At its core, the Foundation invests in the education and development of individuals with entrepreneurial potential within Southern Africa. We believe that it takes one responsible, high-impact entrepreneur to change the reality of a city, or even a country, by creating long-term, meaningful job opportunities. We are proud of our current participant numbers, summarised in the image below, and of the strides made in the various programmes and initiatives described in the following sections.


In the tapestry of our vision, each thread is meticulously woven with the collective determination to make a difference.

Scholarship Programme

Our Scholarship Programme aims to develop a community of young leaders (high school learners) with an entrepreneurial outlook. Over and above funding their education (which includes Scholar tuition, boarding, uniforms, textbooks and a living stipend), it fosters the curiosity and potential already exhibited by these learners through a combination of face-to-face, online and peer learning, as well as one-on-one interventions. The curricula of placement partner high schools are supplemented by mentorship provided by a dedicated Programme Officer for each Scholar. Scholars complete the Programme with an understanding of entrepreneurship and an appreciation of the culture of community and collaboration.

We are proud to report that our Grade 12 Scholars achieved a 100% pass rate, with over 98% of them achieving a bachelor’s degree pass.

Fellowship Programme

Our Fellowship Programme equips university students with the necessary tools to flourish in their industry and an entrepreneurial lens to view opportunities differently. The Programme aims to develop Southern Africa’s future business owners by helping students prepare for life as high-impact, responsible entrepreneurs.

Participants, known as Candidate Fellows, receive entrepreneurship education, personal development, and differentiated financial support according to their needs for their education (which includes tuition, residence, textbooks and a living stipend). They are supported holistically in their transition to university and throughout their journey.

In 2023, the Foundation retained 86% of its Candidate Fellows, falling marginally short of its retention target of 90%.  In terms of its throughput target, the Foundation admitted 92 Candidate Fellows (79.3%) into the Association in 2023, exceeding its 70% target.

Association of Allan Gray Fellows

Celebrating 15 years, with 797 Allan Gray Fellows part of the alumni community, the Association of Allan Gray Fellows provides a platform for Fellows to test their entrepreneurial ideas, receive feedback, hone various skills and develop mutually beneficial relationships as part of a community that includes other Fellows and partners.

As the Association marks this milestone, we pay homage to Mr. Gray's visionary philanthropy, inspired by the same principles that fuelled the success of his companies: a belief in the power of individuals and a steadfast long-term orientation. Mr. Gray envisioned a new generation of high-impact, responsible entrepreneurial leaders emerging from diverse communities. The Fellows have embraced this vision, becoming ambassadors of change, embodying passion and innovation. They stand at the forefront of economic and social transformation, inspiring others to follow in their pioneering footsteps and reinforcing the Foundation’s commitment to nurturing responsible entrepreneurs.

Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge

Now in its seventh year, the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge (AGEC), which uses gamification to provide learners across the country with entrepreneurial thinking and problem-solving challenges, as well as the development of entrepreneurial competencies, has been launched in high schools and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, while the Primary Champions Young Business Minds (the primary school version of AGEC) has been launched in primary schools. Our emphasis on adopting an inclusive roll-out strategy has yielded success, reaching diverse target groups across all nine provinces.

Strategic measures, such as removing barriers and restructuring the game, contributed to exceptional participation and engagement. Notably, the integration of an automated marking feature into the game, which eliminates the need for manual marking of learner submissions, significantly improved the overall gaming experience. Additionally, mobile apps facilitated flexible participation, resulting in a total of 16 000 registrations by learners for the AGEC’s 2023 gaming season.

Furthermore, the AGEC Gaming Network – a social platform enabling players to connect, engage and collaborate with diverse stakeholders in real time, fostering access to additional support for unpacking entrepreneurial concepts – grew by a phenomenal 156% since the previous campaign, with 27 693 members from various segments, including learners, teachers, TVET students, businesses, mentors and parents. With representation from 2 251 schools, 3 222 registered parents and 1 519 registered businesses, the AGEC’s impact has extended.

Our commitment to preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs is unwavering.

Celebrating success stories and community engagement

Many of our beneficiaries have emerged as shining examples of innovation and leadership. Daniel Ndima, founder of innovative healthcare company CapeBio, and Melvyn Lubega of Go1, an educational platform, were lauded at the 11th All Africa Business Leaders Awards. Meanwhile, Matthew Piper and Karidas Tshintsholo, founders of Khula!, which provides software tools to grow agriculture and food businesses, have secured a minority equity deal with the Absa Group, which will empower them to further grow their business and potentially expand into other African markets.

Candidate Fellows are also making waves. Adam Gear's efforts raised US$15 000 for effective charities through the Effective Altruism Hong Kong community. Mhlengi Shange tutored Grade 11 and 12 learners, sharing university insights and entrepreneurship tips. Zewande Phiri successfully launched a meal service for students, meeting the demand for home-cooked food, especially during exam season, with collaborative support from friends.

Many of our beneficiaries have emerged as shining examples of innovation and leadership.

We are humbled by the national and international acknowledgement the Foundation has received. From recognition by the South African presidency and the Department of Small Business Development to honours at the Africa Startup Ecosystem Builders Summit and Awards in Kenya, these achievements solidify our commitment to shaping the future of entrepreneurship education.

Guided by the spirit of unity, collaboration with the other entities within the Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropies group and an unwavering commitment to a better, more prosperous future, we stand ready to navigate the path to Vision 2030, where our Fellows create sustainable, high-growth businesses, facilitating meaningful job creation, and the Foundation becomes a centre of excellence in identifying and developing entrepreneurial potential.

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