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Beyond cheque book charity: building sustainable social impact programs in Africa

In 2015, countries around the world unanimously adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious set of objectives that aims to achieve sustainable development for all the world’s citizens. In its latest update, the UN pointed out that transitioning toward more sustainable and resilient societies requires and integrated approach that recognises that our challenges, and their solutions, are interrelated. For leading global enterprise software solutions provider SAP, driving meaningful social impact requires a combination of digital skills, technology, expertise and a network of local on-the-ground partners.

“Our focus is on driving lasting change through providing recurring, active on-the-ground support by experienced business leaders, technology experts and a network of high-caliber local partners,” says Cathy Smith, Managing Director at SAP Africa, whose corporate social responsibility programs are guided by, amongst other inputs, the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “For the last 3 years, our CSR efforts are focused on powering opportunity through digital inclusion with three priority areas: powering a digitally literate generation by inspiring enthusiasm and passion for technology and its ability to transform lives; accelerating the best-run NGOs and social enterprises by providing SAP’s global expertise and financial support; and connecting our employees to purpose by unlocking our internal wealth of expertise to promote positive change in underserved areas of society.”

A core program that SAP has been driving in South Africa since 2012 is the SAP Social Sabbatical, a portfolio of pro-bono volunteering programs that places SAP employees in highly diverse teams to dedicate their skills, expertise and know-how in a unique, short-term assignment to solve concrete business challenges for organisations. Since 2012 SAP has supported 20 local NGOs and social enterprises in South Africa with over 70 of the company’s top talents and executives contributing pro-bono consulting to the value of $1.2million.

Four key partners driving social impact

This year, a team of global SAP executives will contribute skills, expertise and time in support of a range of organisations and initiatives all linked to the higher purpose of enabling and supporting positive social change. The 2018 Executive Social Sabbatical program involves four strategic partners that each drive sustainable social impact, namely:

Black Umbrellas, an enterprise and supplier development incubation organisation partnering with the private sector, government and civil society to address the low levels of entrepreneurship and high failure rate of 100% black owned emerging businesses in the African continent;
Livity Africa, a social enterprise based on Livity UK, the UK’s first socially responsible marketing agency, that focuses on the digital economy and the new careers and business models that present unique opportunities to offer livelihoods to young people;
Riversands Incubation Hub, a registered non-profit company established with the vision of a South African economy growing through increasing numbers of successful small businesses whose ownership reflects South Africa’s population demographics, thereby creating jobs and economic opportunity for all; and
New Leaders Foundation (NLF), a not-for-profit advisory and implementation company with high caliber professionals who serve the government, the private sector and civil society organisations to drive sustainable change in education in South Africa. One of NLF’s key programs is the Data Driven Districts program, an online data analysis tool that allows schools across SA to input learner data around attendance, pass rates etc. This data, which includes information for 9.5 million of the country’s 12 million primary and middle school learners, is ultimately used by the district and school leadership to enable better decision-making by the education system.

“Our partnership with these four organisations enables our global executive team and volunteers to make positive lasting contributions to key programs and initiatives that drive social impact where it matters most,” says Smith. “We take a long-term view of our partnerships: achieving the ambitions of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will take far more than once-off CSR projects. Instead, it is the sustained skills, technology and financial support that our organisation contributes and the daily on-the-ground activities of our partners that will transform underserved communities and make a lasting positive impact on local communities, businesses, and economies.”

According to Black Umbrellas CEO Seapei Mafoyane, the support and involvement of corporate partners such as SAP equips their organisation with critical skills that can enable it to better support the advancement of black entrepreneurs and small business development. “South Africa has one of the lowest levels of entrepreneurship in the world, contributing 35% of GDP compared to 60% in other Brics countries such as India and Brazil. Our partners in civil society, the private sector and government all make critical contributions to ensure we can provide the correct resources, skills development, mentoring and access to markets to achieve economic and social change by creating sustainable programs to harness and strengthen Africa’s black entrepreneurial spirit.”

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