Entrepreneurs in South Africa have emerged as a powerful source for creating social change. Traditionally the domain of the public sector and civil society, these social entrepreneurs are now at the forefront of designing innovative solutions to the challenges that have historically seemed impossible to solve. This new class of entrepreneurs are addressing access to housing, health care, skills development, job creation, safety and security, transportation, energy, water, and food security on behalf of the most vulnerable and underserved. This focus matters, as these solutions are the only way we can build a more social justice and ecologically sustainable place to call our home.
To realise their ambitions, these entrepreneurs, however, must overcome a broad spectrum of barriers to grow and scale. These include amongst others:
The South African Breweries Foundation (SABF) recognized these challenges when it created the Social Innovation Award (SIA) in 2011. As the SIA matured, it became clear that many of the previous awardees needed more time, resources and support to realize their potential. In response, SABF created a new Accelerator and Fund for its previous SIA winners, which provides investment readiness support and financial resources.
The programme was launched in October 2017 and has recently selected its third cohort to go through the programme. The programme, managed by Impact Amplifier, offers entrepreneurs the skills, knowledge, documentation and funding required for immediate success, but also positions them for future rounds of funding from other investors. Some of the key successes to-date include:
The third cohort includes:
1. ChemStart offers an affordable and portable mini chemistry kit that enables learners to conduct grade-specific experiments. Without ChemStart, the high price of science products limits access to valuable hands-on experiences. ChemStart enables learners to perform experiments themselves, either at home or school. The product is cheap enough for parents and schools to purchase it, and is modular, allowing for access to a kit as the finances become available. In this way, ChemStart helps learners gain the experience they need to become scientists when they grow up.
2. Ivili Loboya, building on almost eight years of academic research, commercialized the finding that indigenous goats produce a winter fiber very similar to the finest global cashmere. It has created a vertically integrated wool and cashmere processing facility in the rural Eastern Cape, providing increased economic opportunities for goat and sheep farmers. Ivili also provides skills development for weaving and knitting enterprises, has developed a retail brand all of which brings an entirely new value chain and economic development to the Eastern Cape.
3. Livestock Wealth provides small scale farmers with the working capital they need to invest in livestock while providing investors with a market-rate return. Small scale farmers experience cash flow challenges based on the time between when animals mate and when income is first earned from the offspring. Most small scale farmers cannot qualify for bank loans because they do not have collateral. Whereas financial institutions do not accept growing assets as collateral, Livestock Wealth provides a platform that allows farmers to raise funding for their operations by selling some of their growing assets to investors, then buying back the assets once their financial situation has improved.
4. Oasis Recycling and RE Use Project provides employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities in recycling, waste management, retail, bakery, cleaning, and packaging projects. Its holistic approach includes other crucial services, such as transport, housing, and helps these individuals work towards supporting themselves and their families. Oasis’s activities also significantly reduce waste by promoting re-use and recycling.
5. Paper Video creates exam papers for mathematics, physical sciences, life sciences, and accounting with QR codes next to each question that links to engaging lesson videos. When students (grades 8-12) are stuck on a question, they can scan or enter the code and watch an in-depth lesson by a real teacher. Paper Video reduces barriers to entry by providing at least 20% of its resources for free and creating microSD cards, which contain thousands of lesson videos, for students who do not have access to an internet connection.
6. RailPro converts road trucks to function on both road and rail, creating an alternate and cost-effective means of passenger transportation from rural areas into economic centres. In this way, it uses underutilised rails to deliver cheap mobility to historically marginalised communities. By using rail lines that run through densely-populated areas, RailPro can help facilitate increased employment, access to water, healthcare, and education.
7. Senso has created a wrist wearable product for deaf and hard of hearing people that pick up sounds and communicates these sounds to the user through vibration and color coded LED lights. Other available solutions are intrusive because they require surgery, or are smartphone-enabled and require access to networks. The Senso wristband does not require a network connection but, instead links to five portable wireless sensing units. It senses any sound louder than the ambient sound level, such as alarms and crying children, and alerts the user with color coded lights that correspond to the location of the sensing unit.
8. Tour 2.0 is a destination management company that aims to create new perceptions of Africa by connecting visitors with unique urban, cultural and community experiences that are otherwise inaccessible. With the intention to develop local economies it identifies, develops, and vets experiences that allow visitors to access people and places otherwise inaccessible while also redirecting the tourism economy to places normally excluded.
9. Vuleka helps informal shop owners build their businesses by providing a mobile platform that connects them to small and large wholesalers and manufacturers. Small shop earners are constrained by high prices, expensive transportation, poor stock management and working capital. Vuleka addresses these challenges by collecting goods from wholesalers and manufacturers, delivers them to shop owners, using purchases made in the app both provide credit and builds credit profiles for the shop owners.