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Social development is a social partnership duty South African corporates weigh in

October marks Social Development Month, which highlights programmes aimed at fighting poverty and building a caring society for a better life. As the spotlight turns to the Department of Social Development and its agencies around the acceleration of the work and services they offer to vulnerable groups, it is also evident that to truly empower those most vulnerable, the support of communities and the private sector is critical.


“Being a good corporate steward is a fundamental commitment and an important part of doing business today. In fact, the success of business and society is linked to the well-being of each and every citizen,” says Andra Nel, Marketing Manager: Brand & Purpose at KFC South Africa. “Our Recipe for Good, not only reflects our priorities for socially responsible growth, risk management and sustainable stewardship of our food and planet, but also our commitment to access and opportunities for people and communities. For us, social development means investing in people and in our children – providing them with not only nutritious meals to help them cultivate a brighter future – but giving them access to equal opportunities and the potential to change the world. It also means building collaborative networks and partnerships, along with the community to really tackle some of the key challenges.”


As Nelson Mandela so rightly put; education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. “For us, the support of Early Childhood Development (EDC) centres is compounded by the drive to create an efficient, accessible and quality education system in South Africa. A large focus of KFC Add Hope is aimed at feeding programs for vulnerable youth and underprivileged children between the ages of 0- 18 including ECD centres, schools and youth care centres. Poor nutrition in early childhood can significantly impair healthy growth, development and learning capabilities and so hunger is a very real threat to the future of our country,” adds Nel.


According to the United National World Food Programme school-aged children often bear the brunt of today’s global food crisis with devastating consequences for their education and so sustained and adequate support for both feeding schemes and education have to continue to be high on the priority list. 


“We firmly believe that education is critical to reducing inequality,” says Margaret Arnold, who oversees enterprise development initiatives for Investec. “We alsorecognise that there needs to be a continuum of initiatives, starting from high school, moving to tertiary education and continuing through to young adult learning. More than that, teacher competency also remains a critical issue that needs to be addressed to ensure the success of an entire generation.”


It is for this reason that Investec has combined learnership strategy with the YES initiative to ensure that learners can also become active economic participants with formal qualifications and placement. And this includes growing the number of teachers in South Africa. 


“Since joining YES in 2018, we have placed 3000 youth in meaningful employment, and this includes 872 teacher interns with ORT SA Cape since 2019. The impact that this has had not only on these individuals, mainly from vulnerable communities, have been life changing, but also the knock-on impact on the community is immeasurable,” adds Arnold.


This knock-on impact is also so critical for surrounding communities, and one just need to look at community resource centres to understand how valuable they are. Libraries are a prime example here when it comes to education and increasing reading skills and access to learning resources in underserved communities.


The Imperial & Motus Community Trust has to date established 73 fully equipped libraries managed by dedicated library assistants, which together with our focused literacy and reading programme interventions, have become a hub to address grassroot level skills and provide the necessary learning environment and tools to promote healthy educational development for learners in underserved communities on the outskirts of Johannesburg,” adds Esha Mansingh, Head of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for sub-Saharan Africa at DP World and Trustee of the Imperial and Motus Community Trust. “The ability to read for meaning is critical, and encouraging community participation in literacy programmes is necessary if we are to make a meaningful impact. Our commitment is to find ways to impact the educational journey of children in South Africa and provide support for their future success in life.”


Beyond the child development space, it is critical for business to understand these communities and their needs at length. “From a DP World perspective, we have taken a bold approach to social development – where we looked at the macro-economic challenges such as the persistence of poverty, unemployment and inequality which remain the biggest challenge in our society,” adds Esha. “It is for this reason that we are intentional in aligning our investments to healthcare, education, skills development, women empowerment, and road safety. We are proud of our high-impact investments in these areas – which have been achieved through strategic partnerships with Unjani Clinics NPC and Active Education, amongst others.”


Social development is about improving the well-being of every individual in society so they can reach their full potential. “It means investing in people – and critically our youth and their education – and developing strong partnerships to create enduring worth,” concludes Arnold.


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