With all the bad news looming over the country like a dark cloud and issues ranging from The Spear fracas to crime, corruption and political infighting, a ray of sunshine to pierce the gloom is most welcome.
South Africans Paul Matthew and Andrew Muir and their organisations were two of the recipients of the African Social Entrepreneur of the Year awards at the World Economic Forum on Africa held in Ethiopia last month.
The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship identifies the world’s leading social entrepreneurs in more than 40 countries. The awards were presented to the winners by Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.
Hilde Schwab, the chairwoman and co-founder of the foundation, said social entrepreneurs used innovative approaches to extend access to health care, education, energy and housing to marginalised populations that might not otherwise be included in the traditional markets.
“They ensure that growth, such as that experienced in Africa, is and will be inclusive,” she explained.
Matthew is the director of North Star Alliance, an innovative public-private partnership that specialises in building sustainable roadside clinics to meet basic health needs.
He established North Star Alliance with no more than three workers in the late 1990s.
Today the enterprise employs more than 100 people and is worth about R50 million.
In 1993 Matthew joined the road freight industry to work on education and training.
He established the Trucking Against Aids programme with his employer and some employees, to address the alarming impact of HIV/Aids on mobile workers such as truck drivers.
“The programme was taken up by the road freight industry and became a model of health service delivery for truck drivers in South Africa. It also led to the development of North Star Alliance in 2006,” he said.
“I am proud to be recognised for my achievements over the past 20 years in the field of HIV and Aids, and especially pleased of the recognition for North Star Alliance and our commitment to keeping mobile workers healthy and productive.”
Since opening its first centre in Malawi, North Star Alliance has grown to 24 centres in 10 countries in east and southern Africa, with other centres set to open in west Africa.
Muir is the executive director of the Wilderness Foundation, which was established in 1972.
It integrates conservation programmes with social and educational programmes. It has trained thousands of young people to be community leaders and rangers in national parks.
Under the organisation’s stewardship, over 200 000ha of wilderness has been rehabilitated and extended.
More than 100 000 disadvantaged or vulnerable youth have benefited from the Wilderness Foundation through its social intervention and environmental education programmes.
The other winners were: Seri Youlou and Thomas Granier, co-founders of Association la Voute Nubienne in Burkina Faso; Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, the managing director of soleRebels in Ethiopia; and Sameer Hajee, the chief executive of Nuru Energy Group in Rwanda.