Corporate social investment (CSI) used to be a mere a philanthropic act where companies were content to fund a few community-based projects without having much meaningful involvement in them. Today CSI has become a critical component of most companies’ brands and profiles. These interventions are a strategic imperative that see companies devoting a great deal of thought, time, planning and resources to ensure that the projects they fund are relevant, in line with their values, and — more importantly — are sustainable.
Consumers and shareholders also respect and value companies that have CSI operations aligned to their business practice, take into consideration the communities they work with, and are socially and environmentally compliant.
On the education front, several companies are also providing training in their areas of speciality; others provide schools with laboratories and equipment. Some companies have initiated CSI projects aimed at helping the department of basic education to equip learners with the requisite skills to address the shortfalls that the country faces. These include skills development and training in ICT, nutrition, infrastructure development, science and computers, and providing bursaries to fund learners in the gateway subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Turning South Africa’s fortunes requires bold and goal-oriented Public-Private Partnerships
Providing regular, nutritious meals significantly improves learners’ performance and school attendance
Many observers consider Singapore to be the economic miracle of our times. This tiny country in Southeast Asia moved, in a period of just three decades, from being a Third World country with an endemic drug problem to a first world country that is the envy of many nations.
This island state, with a population of just over a million people at the time it gained independence from Malaysia, and with few natural resources, dared to dream big. The 2004 Singapore Metropolitan Strategy Report mentioned the mobilisation of Singapore’s human capital, its only “natural” resource, as one of the main drivers of the country’s economic development, which made it attractive to foreign investment and fast-tracked its economic transformation.
In 2015, Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita (the total value of goods and services produced by the country, divided by the number of its citizens) was measured at US$51 000, over 400% of the world’s GDP per capita average.
South Africa — and the rest of Africa, to a large degree — faces the challenges of having underdeveloped, undernourished and undereducated citizens, which leads to much unrealised potential. Unlike Singapore, however, we do have an ace up our sleeve. Countries in this region have a wealth of natural resources as well as plentiful, talented human capital.
According to Statistics South Africa, the number of children younger than 18 in South Africa is somewhere around 18-million, with far too many of them facing persistent hunger. Of the 18-million, 22.8% are reported to have inadequate access to food, while a further 7.8% have severely inadequate access to food.
The worst cases are found to be in the North West, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape provinces, with the latter documenting a food insecurity prevalence rate of 39.1%.
To date, the South African government has implemented three policy initiatives to address the underlying causes of insufficient nutrient intake. These initiatives include the provision of social grants, the Integrated Food Security and Nutrition Programme and the National School Nutrition Programme. Together these programmes represent massive state investments designed to alleviate the effects of childhood poverty.
But the state’s resources alone cannot meaningfully address these challenges. Many organisations in the private sector have taken the initiative to improve living conditions for South Africa’s youth through public-private partnerships. One such organisation is the Tiger Brands Foundation, established in 2009 to address malnutrition and the role it plays in inhibiting childhood development in South Africa.
We at the foundation believe we need to focus on developing our people individually and collectively to positively impact on the future of all our citizens. This development journey should preferably start early on in life, during early childhood development.
The Tiger Brands Foundation, whose programmes are funded by dividend income from Tiger Brands Group Limited, today has a nationwide in-school nutrition programme offering nutritious breakfasts to children at 88 no-fee schools, reaching more than 60 000 learners daily in all nine provinces. The programme is run in partnership with the department of basic education.
The foundation has a broad-based community impact; we also run projects that promote sustainable livelihoods in areas where no-fee schools exist, thus reaching other vulnerable groups in these communities.
The impact of our in-school nutrition programme is already being felt across the country. According to the World Health Organisation, the three most commonly used anthropometric indices to assess the growth status of children are weight-for-height, height-for-age and weight-for-age. Studies of learners who benefit from our nutrition programmes indicate that the levels of obesity (weight-for-height) and stunting (low height-for-age) have decreased remarkably. We have also seen a significant change in learner performance and attendance at most of the schools where the nutrition programme has been implemented.
In November 2016, the Tiger Brands Foundation served its 40-millionth meal as part of the in-school nutrition programme. This represents a major milestone for us. However, there is still a lot of potential for corporates to form partnerships with the foundation and the government to drive the process along.
Our chairperson, Sheila Sisulu, recently called on corporate South Africa to replicate the foundation’s in-school nutrition programme to reach more schools across the country.
Think about what your company is doing. Could you be doing more?
Eugene Absolom is executive director of the Tiger Brands Foundation.
The 2016 Firstrand Laurie Dippenaar and Firstrand Foundation Scholarships for Postgraduate International Study Awarded
Four academically gifted South African students with excellent leadership qualities and the potential to be future destiny changers were each awarded R750 000 to pursue postgraduate studies at the internationally recognised university of their choice in the FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar and FirstRand Foundation postgraduate scholarship awards this year.
2016 is the 10th year that these prestigious scholarships have been awarded. The value of the scholarship was increased to R750 000 per year and a total of R3 million was awarded to four students. The scholarship is available to South African citizens for postgraduate study in any discipline at an internationally recognised university of their choice. Excellence is the only criterion for selection.
The scholarship was awarded to four exceptional candidates.
Russel Daries was awarded a FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship. He has a BSC in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town and will be undertaking an MSc in Machine Learning at University College London.
Niel van Der Walt was awarded a FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship. He holds a B Eng Honours in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pretoria and will read for a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering (telecommunications and sensing systems) at Delft University., specialising in quantum mechanics.
Mogwale Motebejane was awarded a FirstRand Foundation Scholarship. He completed his MBChB at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is now completing a 12 month fellowship in interventional neuroradiology at Tufts University School of Medicine
Genna Gardini has a BA Honours with drama specialisation and an MA in Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town. She wishes to pursue a PhD in Drama and English at Queen Mary University of
“The panel was again hugely impressed by the quality of all the applicants and, in particular, the last ten who were invited to be interviewed. Any of the ten could have been a worthy recipient of the award. Members of the panel were unanimous in their view that meeting and interviewing the finalists was an inspirational experience. The panel regard themselves as fortunate to be exposed to such amazing talent.” said Laurie Dippenaar, Chairman, FirstRand.
As a result of the growing awareness of this leading scholarship, 194 (an increase of more than 70%) qualifying applications were received in 2016. Applications were received from graduates from all of the major academic universities.
“I would once again like to thank all South African universities for promoting this scholarship among their outstanding postgraduate students. The final adjudication panel was again hugely impressed by the quality of all the applicants and, in particular, the final 10 who were invited for interviews.” said Beth van Heerden, FirstRand CSI Executive
Applications for the 2017 FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship for Postgraduate International Study will open on Friday 16 December 2016 and close on Thursday 23 February 2017.
Details and the application form will be available on the FirstRand website, www.firstrand.co.za from end November 2016.
The following factors are taken into account in the awarding of the scholarship:
A preliminary evaluation process was followed with at least three people evaluating each application. The preliminary judging panel of 27 members consisted of representatives from FirstRand, RMB, FNB, Tshikululu Social Investments, and prior scholarship recipients. A list of 47 applicants (long list) was selected and interviewed either in person or telephonically by a combination of Beth van Heerden, Jonathan Stilwell, Adrian Arnott and Professor Shireen Hassim from Wits University. A short list of 10 candidates was selected for the final interviews for the FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar scholarship.
The 2016 final adjudication panel was:
Launch announcement: October 2016 Firstrand Oxford African Studies Scholarship to the University of Oxford
The FirstRand Foundation has entered into a partnership with the African Studies Centre at Oxford University to allow an outstanding South African student to undertake postgraduate study at one of the world’s foremost universities..
The scholarship will provide full funding for one student each year to study a master’s degree at the African Studies Centre of Oxford University. The partnership is for five years. The successful candidate will be housed at Wadham College.
“The African Studies Centre is delighted to inaugurate this relationship with FirstRand, thus continuing a rich tradition of working with South African institutions and providing opportunities for South Africans to study at Oxford.” Jonny Steinberg, Professor of African Studies, Oxford University
FirstRand will conduct the interviewing and selection process, which will run concurrently with the FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship for international postgraduate study, based on academic excellence, leadership ability, community involvement and the candidate’s potential to be a destiny changer.
“The candidates historically interviewed all have amazing talent and I have always been impressed by the enthusiasm shown for their chosen fields of study. They have excelled academically as well as in their outside interests, such as sport, music and community service. Leadership qualities also seem to be part and parcel of their make-up.
The interviews are a humbling and rewarding experience.” Laurie Dippenaar, Chairman, FirstRand.
Candidates have to apply and be accepted to do an MSc at the African Studies Centre at Oxford University and must apply online for the FirstRand Oxford African Studies Scholarship for their application to be considered.
Shortlisted candidates will be notified by mid-April and should be available for final interviews to be held in Sandton on 25 April 2017. A final announcement will be made by end May 2017.
FirstRand and the African Studies Centre are looking for the best applicants who will truly benefit from the opportunity and contribute to South Africa on their return.
The successful candidate is required to return to South Africa for at least five years after completing his or her studies as stipulated by SARS.
Online applications for the FirstRand Oxford African Studies Scholarship and the FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship for international postgraduate study for 2017 will open on 16 December 2016 and close on 23 February 2017. No late applications will be accepted.
Applications for the MSc in African Studies at Oxford University close on 20 January 2017. For more information visit: http://www.africanstudies.ox.ac.uk/msc-african-studies. Information and the application form will on the FirstRand website from December 2016, www.firstrand.co.za