WEF honours SA social entrepreneurs

10 May 2012

Two South Africans were among five leading innovators named African Social Entrepreneurs of the Year at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday.

Paul Matthew, Africa director of innovative public-private health partnership North Star Alliance, and Andrew Muir, executive director of the Wilderness Foundation, were honoured by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship on the opening day of the latest WEF gathering on the continent.

The five winners received their awards from WEF chairman Klaus Schwab in the presence of the presidents of Gabon, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

“Social entrepreneurs use innovative approaches to extend access to healthcare, education, energy and housing to marginalized populations that may not otherwise be included in the traditional markets,” said Schwab Foundation chairperson Hilde Schwab.

“They ensure that growth, such as that experienced in Africa, is and will be inclusive.”

Health care for Africa’s workers on the move

In the 1990s, Paul Matthew witnessed the alarming impacts of HIV/Aids on long-distance truck drivers and other mobile workers in southern Africa, and realized that they lacked access to basic health care.

In 2005, Matthew co-founded what was to become North Star Alliance, a public-private partnership that provides mobile workers and related communities with access to high-quality health and safety services through a network of interlinked clinics known as “roadside wellness centres”.

“Since opening its first centre in Malawi in 2005, North Star has grown to 22 centres in 10 countries,” the Schwab Foundation said in a statement on Wednesday.

Conservation integrated with social upliftment

The Wilderness Foundation, founded in 1972 by Ian Player, now directed by Andrew Muir, successfully integrates conservation programmes with social and educational programmes, and has trained thousands of young people in southern Africa to be community leaders and national park rangers.

In 2006, Muir founded the South African-based Umzi Wethu programme, which targets vulnerable youth “that show resilience and ambition, but despair of opportunities to support their households”, and gives them the skills and training they need to become highly employable young adults.

The Schwab Foundation commented: “Under the stewardship of the Wilderness Foundation, over 200 000 hectares of African wilderness have been rehabilitated and expanded in the interests of conservation and environmental protection.

“More than 100 000 disadvantaged/vulnerable youth have benefited from the Wilderness Foundation through its social intervention and environmental education programmes.”

Africa’s other three Social Entrepreneurs of the Year are: Bethlehem Alemu, co-founder and managing director of soleRebels in Ethiopia; Sameer Hajee, chief executive officer of the Nuru Energy Group in Rwanda; and Seri Youlou and Thomas Granier, co-founders of the Association la Voute Nubienne in Burkina Faso.

SAinfo reporter