Trustees of Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation,
Board Members of Adopt-a-School, Black Umbrellas, CRET and KST,
Alumni and beneficiaries of Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation and its partner entities,
Stakeholders, partners and friends of the Foundation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to be here this evening, and to share in the celebration of this important milestone.
It is with a sense of great pride that we look back on the road we have travelled in making a difference in the lives of the men, women and children of South Africa.
We know that a vast expanse of road still lies ahead, and there is still much more to be done.
And yet we celebrate.
We celebrate our achievements, but also, importantly, the evolution of this Foundation over the past fifteen years.
We were born in the tenth year of our democracy.
It was a time of great change and flux, when the euphoria of the early years of democracy had been overtaken by the huge challenge of confronting the realities of our inherited legacy – a society beset by inequality, widespread poverty and uneven development.
When we established the Foundation in 2004 as the CSI arm of the Shanduka Group, our mandate was to support initiatives to improve education and to grow small black businesses.
Focus, adaptability and responsiveness have been key to the Foundation’s success.
That we are here marking 15 years of delivering on that same mandate is also testimony to the power of a vision.
In investing in these two very specific areas, we knew it would take time to reap the harvest.
The seeds we planted back in 2004 are now sturdy oaks, and this Foundation’s roots are now firmly embedded in the South African soil.
We are an organisation whose purpose is to foster an inclusive and empowered society, where all citizens are able to enjoy the benefit and shade of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
When we established the Foundation back in 2004 our vision was of a South Africa free of inequality, poverty, unemployment and violence.
It was a vision of a society of self-sufficient entrepreneurs who can contribute towards transforming our communities and our economy.
It was a vision of an organisation that would do its part in making South Africa a land of hope, of opportunity and above all of prosperity for all.
When we were first formed, we committed to spend R100 million over 10 years.
By the beginning of this year, our 15th anniversary year, the Foundation had already contributed over R359 million.
In addition, we have leveraged over a billion rand through our partner entities to support programmes in education, youth, SMEs and vulnerable children and women.
Well over a million learners, students and emergent entrepreneurs have participated in and benefited from the programmes of the Foundation.
Our overriding objective has been to play our part in reducing the great inequalities that persist in our society.
Inequalities that continue to be passed down from generation to generation, and have resulted in the cycle of poverty being repeated again and again.
Our focus on education has been pivotal.
When James Motlatsi and I formally established Adopt-a-School in 2002, it focused on infrastructure development.
We soon recognised, however, that infrastructure alone would not result in quality education.
What was also needed was the development of effective leadership and management systems, of educator skills, curriculum structures, and improved learner well-being and safety.
This holistic approach led to the Whole School Development model.
And now, Adopt-a-School is evolving the model further with the piloting of the Thari programme to address the impact that violence and vulnerability has on children and their learning outcomes.
KST, our partnership with Kagiso Trust and First Rand Empowerment Foundation, has taken the Whole School Development model forward.
It is driving institutional and systemic change through a district based approach in the Free State with the support of MEC Tate Makgoe and the Free State Department of Education.
KST proves that impactful partnership is possible between Government, the private sector and non-governmental organisations.
Together, Adopt-a-School and KST are working in almost 500 schools and have benefited over one million learners.
Thari has reached thousands through its awareness campaigns and benefited almost a thousand children and family members with psychosocial support services.
The Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust is our maiden programme.
It has its origins in the mid-1990s, and in the support Donné Nicol and I were able to give to small numbers of students to study from money I earned from public speaking engagements.
CRET offers holistic support to students, including mentorship, work experience and driver training programmes that link higher education access and throughput with job prospects.
This year our intake was over 100 students and we are looking forward to more than 30 graduates completing their studies.
While education is essential for improving lives, creating economic opportunities is a far broader undertaking.
That is why the Foundation’s other focus area is on the development of small business.
Our objective has been to drive economic transformation that is inclusive.
Through Black Umbrellas and its online Black Pages, SMMEs are able to connect with big business and gain access to markets.
Since inception Black Umbrellas has incubated well over 1,500, 100% black-owned businesses.
Those businesses have together turned over almost R3 billion and have created and preserved almost 12,000 jobs.
Most recently, Black Umbrellas opened its ninth incubator in Soweto.
That is a milestone achievement that crowns milestone achievements.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Among the many lessons we have learned over the years is that for our interventions to have maximum impact they must be holistic.
Our programmes traverse an arc of life, from primary and secondary education to tertiary education, to employment and entrepreneurship.
This all-encompassing and coherent development approach positions us in a unique manner and has made us stand out in the developmental landscape.
As we look to the next 15 years, our goal must be to give better strategic and programmatic effect to that arc of life that our programmes span.
In doing so, we must enhance the synergies between our partner entities and ensure their models can leverage off one another.
Like many NGOs, the Foundation has also experienced challenges over the years.
Ironically, NGOs have in many respects been casualties of our democratic dividend.
We have seen South Africa becoming less and less of a donor priority, and of development aid being structured bilaterally between governments.
A struggling economy has resulted in constraints on corporate social investment, as well as the challenge of sustaining CSI programmes in a rapidly changing world.
We had to transition from being a corporate foundation, as part of the Shanduka Group, to being an independent foundation.
This occasioned the finalisation of some 700 organisational tasks, including of requirements related to systems, structures, policies, governance and regulatory and fiduciary obligations.
This was on top of the need to consolidate the Foundation’s strategic positioning.
This has enabled us to deliver on our mandate to make a real and meaningful difference where it is most needed in this country.
A difference in the life of the schoolgirl who smiles as she receives her first pair of glasses and the chalkboard has now come into focus, and a world of opportunity has opened up.
A difference in the life of the poor student who taught himself to type on a cardboard cut-out keyboard and who now is a successful professional.
A difference in the life of the retrenched factory worker who is now able to start her own manufacturing business.
It is about hours spent in new libraries and games played on new sports fields.
It is about teachers confident in their subjects and learners engrossed in their lessons.
It is about school toilets that flush, tuition fees that are paid on time, and small businesses that are now tax compliant.
It is about schools that have been utterly transformed, businesses that have grown from one employee to a hundred, and cattle herders who have become accountants – or who have become successful cattle farmers themselves.
This Foundation’s resilience, capacity for innovation and its integrity underpin a legacy that is an integral part of the tapestry of South Africa’s 25 years of freedom and democracy.
This celebratory dinner allows me, personally, to celebrate all of you who have walked this journey of the Foundation and who have joined its cause along the way.
I thank the Trustees, the Boards, the Executive and the staff of the Foundation and all of its partner entities.
I thank all of our corporate partners and associates, who have committed resources and worked with us to pursue the vision of an inclusive, empowered society through small business and educational development.
I thank above all our beneficiaries.
The schools and all their stakeholders – learners, parents, teachers, principals, administrators and government officials – the tertiary students, and the small businesses who have joined in our endeavours.
We set ourselves the task of changing lives.
But it is you who grasped your destiny with both hands.
It is you who took the tools and opportunities that have been made available to you and multiplied them tenfold.
It is my ardent wish that now you will also give back to your communities, and that someday you too will be donors to this Foundation.
“Freedom,” wrote the French philosopher Albert Camus, “is nothing else but a chance to be better.”
The freedom we won in 1994 only has meaning if it translates into the upliftment of the material condition of those it was meant to benefit.
Of all the achievements this Foundation has registered over the past 15 years, giving people a chance to better their lives is the one of which we are most proud.
We have been guided by the unwavering belief that real empowerment does not end by picking someone up.
It is in taking their hand, in walking by their side as they steady themselves, then letting go as they stand on their own two feet.
Today there are millions of men, women and children around South Africa who are safer, who are better educated, who are self-sufficient, who are economically secure, and who look to the future with optimism, because of you.
We are reaping the harvest of seeds sown 15 years ago.
We will continue to do so for many years to come.
I thank you.