The end of a decade

As this decade draws to a close, many South Africans are still basking in the glory of winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The 2019 Springbok team is a remarkable case study, demonstrating the value of a long-term transformative game plan, the importance of investing in young talent, the value of setting big hairy audacious goals and the importance of leadership, especially when the stakes are high. It speaks to team work, drawing on various resources to create a winning squad and a resilience that even when the game plan does not pan out on the day it is vital to pause, reflect, tweak and to never lose sight of the end goal.

Reflecting on recent unemployment and inequality reports, it is understandable that some may question whether business needs a radical rethink of its social investment game plan, given the billions of Rands invested in society over the past decade. A very narrow view of the role of business in society would concur that these investments have been ineffective. However, turning the tide to create a prosperous and thriving SA Inc. is a long-term game, with foundational building blocks required along a very complex path to rebuild a fragile society that has experienced decades of economic, political and social tensions. If we purely focus on what has not been achieved over the past decade and the immediate turmoil, we will fail to see the bigger picture and to capitalize on the opportunities that are paving the way for a brighter decade.

Over the past ten years, business has contributed significantly to establishing new institutions focused on creating increasing opportunities for under graduate studies, access to quality early childhood development interventions, programmes focused on increasing the number of quality maths passes, funding environmental programmes to manage endangered wildlife species, support for young artistic talent, funding to support people with disabilities, support for policy and advocacy think tanks and preventative and care programmes to deal with the scourge of gender based violence. Without the support of business many of these interventions would arguably not have got off the ground and we would be one step further away from creating a winning nation.

It is now more important than ever for business to reflect on how to support country needs alongside business needs, how to collaborate for the greater good, how to leverage funding models to scale interventions, the need to balance immediate societal needs with long term systemic interventions and how to measure social impact.  It requires courageous social investors to have a clear game plan, stay the course, continuously evaluate milestones, share successes as well as failures and to work together to create a winning nation. 

The coming decade will continue to challenge us as we work towards long term solutions to address poverty, inequality and unemployment but we must continue to learn from the past and never give up on the SA Inc. dream.

Tshikululu is South Africa’s leading social investment fund manager and advisor, working alongside investors and other development partners to achieve sustainable social impact. We define social investment as any financial commitment – from grant making to impact investing – that seeks to drive and measure social impact. As agents of social change, we partner with our many clients throughout South Africa to realise their social investment goals. Over the past two decades we have operated in every province in the country, covering urban and rural areas, and collaborated with social investors in various sectors including mining, financial services, renewable energy, property development, banking, insurance, healthcare and logistics.