By Zarreen Kamalie

Sometimes it’s tricky identifying whether someone’s a social entrepreneur or a social activist. Social activists are often at the forefront of identifying and raising awareness around key social and political problems within a society. Their goal is essentially to bring about change in the way things are done. Whether that is through government policy, or through community engagement, social activists are convinced there can always be improvement. Social entrepreneurs see it this way too, though their focus is on building organizations, and specified solutions. Their paths can cross as they may work in similar spheres. Some even make the jump and use their knowledge of one field to advance the other.

Activists who turn into social entrepreneurs are the ones who address a social cause with a different approach, one that includes mobilizing resources, building organizations and applying business skills to social problems. Making the jump between the two is something worth noting because it takes a major shift in one’s comfort zone, possibly an acquisition of new skills, and even reaching out to the very institutions that you were protesting against.
The following African activists were able to make that transition, leaving behind a legacy to be proud of.

1) Wendy Luhabe
South African

Wikimedia Commons/CC/World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland
Wikimedia Commons/CC/World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland

As an economic activist for the past 20 years, Wendy Luhabe is a firm believer that once women have financial security, that they will be able to lift not only themselves up, but their communities as well.  Her latest project enables women in townships and rural areas to bake bread and earn a living. It could be life-changing, especially on the scale she envisages. She has been known to express her disregard for charity and welfare systems, as she believes they perpetuate dependency. In a political context that works toward social liberation, to be able to say ‘Nope, this is not the way to do it’ is pretty impressive.

Luhabe is the founder of Women Private Equity Fund, has been a pioneering Social Entrepreneur for the past two decades. Her passions lie in building an ecosystem for entrepreneurship in Africa and she is a recipient of 3 Honorary Doctorates and a member of the International Council of Business Women Leaders initiated by Hillary Clinton on the Economic Empowerment of Women.

Although Luhabe has indicated that she will not raise a second equity fund after the closure of the women-focused private equity fund, we can hope that her mentorship to other young entrepreneurs during her successes inspires innovation and initiative among the youth in South Africa.

2) Leymah Gbowee

Wikimedia Commons/CC/Jon Styer, Eastern Mennonite University
Wikimedia Commons/CC/Jon Styer, Eastern Mennonite University

The Women’s Rights and Peace activist was one of three female recipients to be awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, “for non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work.” During unstable times in Liberia, Gbowee has helped organize and lead the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, an alliance of Christian and Muslim women, in public protest. In her TEDx talk, she explained how as a social worker during the first war, she helped organize an interreligious coalition of Christian and Muslim women called the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement. If you’re well versed in Liberia’s bloody history, you’ll understand progressive implications of fostering interfaith unity after years of taught animosity.

Her organization, Women Peace and Security Network Africa, and the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa trains and empowers women in Africa to bring peace to their own countries. The foundation works towards facilitating equal access to opportunities, mainly through female empowerment into leadership roles in schools and communities. Madam Gbowee has definitely taken matters into her own hands here.

3) Mariéme Jamme

Mariéme Jamme, can be described as a kind of tech activist. She is the CEO of Spot One Global Solutions and the woman behind the Jjiguène Tech Hub based in Senegal, a tech network that supports young women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Jamme is also behind the platform, Africa Gathering, which engages social entrepreneurs and activists to pool their thoughts and provide practical solutions for Africa’s development.

Jamme continues to inspire young African thinkers and innovators. Her website, is dedicated to stories of activism, philanthropy, and the like, showcasing her varied interests and roots in social consciousness that has helped shape her knack for social enterprise.

All of the aforementioned individuals had been through a degree of hardship on a personal level that would later define and build their capacity to problem solve. Unlike activists alone, these social entrepreneurs were able to isolate a problem and develop a sustainable solution. While these individuals tackled massive issues that seem to have no end, like gender discrimination and financial inclusion, their drive enabled them to dig their claws into the problem and hang on until they saw fit to let go.



Flickr/CC/Rocío Lara

How Africa’s ‘Brain Drain’ Could Be the Key to Successful Crowdfunding

By Zarreen Kamalie


The migration of skilled peoples from Africa to other, often more developed, parts of the world is not phenomenally new. Currently there are conflicting claims on whether the migration of skilled professionals is coming or going, but it most certainly has not died out. This loss of skills and professionalism has been termed, the African ‘Brain Drain’.

On the other hand, the migration of professionals and skilled persons from Africa has resulted in a growing diaspora that contribute to a substantial platform of potential investors for social enterprises based in Africa. Lack of access to investment from local banks is a common problem for small businesses and ventures, such that crowdfunding appears as an increasingly attractive alternative. Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet. This could mean that Africa’s brain drain could help provide the right conditions for social entrepreneurship. These financing techniques are fostering an interest in Africa not only as a place to invest in but also, ironically, as a destination for African migrants who once felt they had to leave for greener pastures.

Flickr/CC/Rocío Lara
Crowdfunding – Flickr/CC/Rocío Lara


Dr. Menghis Bairu, founder and CEO of Serenus Biotherapeutics, is convinced that “it’s not just a matter of attracting African expatriates home”. That instead, we should also be working to “attract talented professional from developed nations who have a passion for the continent and find rewards in being challenged to build, contribute and grow”. Crowdfunding, or as later explained, ‘crowd investing’ is quickly becoming a globally accessible means to not only engage with enterprises in Africa but to engage with the formation of the new social and professional landscape itself.

Yet, there still remain a number of obstacles that impinge the impact that crowdfunded social enterprises could have on the continent. According to

Laura DeLuca, PhD, assistant professor of Environmental, Peace Studies and Social Entrepreneurship at Naropa University, these are the occurrences of prominent African social entrepreneurs that move to the West after attending accelerators or incubators, contributing to the African Brain Drain. As well as low bandwidth and unreliable electricity that jeopardise access to entrepreneurial resources on the Internet, and lastly, the fact that crowdfunding through Internet platforms has not become firmly entrenched in entrepreneurial practice in Africa. DeLuca is convinced that crowdfunding, or raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet, is a foreign concept in many parts of the African continent.

Though this is not to say that crowdfunding has not made its mark in Africa. Cameroonian Georges Badjang and his honey production business, Les Mielleries may never have been able to take off if it wasn’t for crowdfunding platform BlueBees. After his local bank turned him away, Badjang was able to acquire the appropriate funds through the platform that specializes in entrepreneurs from developing countries, connecting them with investors from Europe. Other platforms, including Fadev and Babyloan, have begun to offer opportunities for small African businesses by accessing the African Diaspora as a source of potential investors. This technique of targeting the African Diaspora has also been employed by Elizabeth Howard, co-founder of Lelapa Fund, an organisation that targets Africans living abroad who want to invest in and support projects “back home” identifies the platform as ‘crowd investing’.

“the best investors in Africa are Africans themselves”

Howard seems to believe that, unlike European investors or contributing parties, members of the African diaspora perceive fewer barriers to involving themselves with African projects than foreign investors. South African investor Patrick Schofield further iterates her point, stating that “it is no coincidence, said, because it is not easy to work directly out of Africa…[and] it can be expensive sending money to Africa and there is also uncertainty as well”.  Howard explains the incentive behind ‘crowd investing’ with the statement, “the best investors in Africa are Africans themselves”.


Flickr/CC/Jason Howie

By Beatrice Loh


With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat changing the way we communicate, social media has been reshaping our world in recent years. The advent of technology and the Internet has made connecting with people across international borders a breeze. Social media has impacted not just the communication between individuals but also the relationship between corporations, the government, and the general public. Social media has not only changed the way we communicate, but also the way we give. Non-profit organisations have adjusted the way they operate with the influx of social media avenues to raise awareness and funds for their causes.

Here are 5 ways that social media has changed the non-profit world:

  1. Reduced Cost of Advertising

Although setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account might be free, social media accounts for non-profit organisations still require staff to run them. However, compared to more traditional methods such as television and print campaigns, social media is a new low cost avenue that non-profit organisations can take advantage of. Apart from reducing cost, social media campaigns allow non-profit organisations to monitor and mine these campaigns for data to better plan budgets, cut costs, and ultimately make more money available to the actual cause itself.

  1. Increasing Awareness for Social Causes

Social media has given non-profit organisations an avenue to raise awareness for social causes through posts that generate ‘likes’ on Facebook and videos and posters that can be shared on numerous platforms.

The ALS Challenge was a viral campaign by The ALS Association, which fights Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. People would either donate $100 to the charity or take a video of having a bucket of ice water dumped on themselves. They would then nominate others to do the same in the video before posting it online. This led to an explosion of videos and donations for the organisation, with celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Chris Evans and Benedict Cumberbatch participating. Matt Damon also joined in and used the opportunity to promote awareness about the water sanitation crisis and, the organisation he co-founded to combat the problem. Although a significant portion of the Internet audience was more interested in watching funny videos of their friends and favourite celebrities than they were about ALS research, the campaign succeeded in generating a large amount of awareness and funding. Since July 2014, The ALS Association has received more than $115 million in donations.  In comparison, in the fiscal year ending January 2014, revenue from all sources totalled only slightly over $29 million.

A Mashable survey on the link between charity donations and social media has shown that 68.8% of respondents felt that social media was “extremely effective” or “very effective” for spreading information about social initiatives, with the vast majority of the survey audience claiming to learn about new social initiatives through social media.

  1. Increasing Speed of Response

Whilst social media has a wide reach, it also allows the quick transfer of information. The speed of social media has changed the way we learn about and respond to events, especially natural disasters. Ease of accessibility has resulted in unprecedented numbers of people being reached in real time. In the wake of devastation, charities can create a status, page, Tweet, or post elsewhere to inform their followers of a situation requiring urgent help and donations, which can be shared and spread in seconds. In the past, charities had to rely on hastily thrown together television commercials and getting hundreds of people to call others and hope for donations.

After a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, non-profit organisations used social media to mobilise rescue efforts and to support the community. The earthquake also saw the deployment of one of the most successful text-to-donate campaigns seen at the time. Similarly, when Japan was rocked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, millions around the globe used social media to receive updates on the situation and contribute to rescue efforts and donate money for medical and basic supplies for survivors. During the recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal in April 2015, Crisis Relief Singapore used Facebook to rally its volunteers and managed to create 5 medical teams that were deployed to Nepal within the next month.   

  1. Rallying of Individuals and Small Groups Around Non-Profit Causes

Social media is enabling individuals to create, join and grow groups around issues they care about outside of the direct control of non-profit organizations. Crowd funding websites such as as GoFundMe and CrowdRise have made it easy for individuals to raise funds for social causes special to them.

Social software design is also accelerating this trend. Facebook Causes is an in-app feature that allows users to discover, support and organize campaigns, fundraisers, and petitions around the issues that impact users and their communities. DonorsChoose launched a feature called “Birthday Give Back” that allows individuals to use their birthdays to champion a social cause – instead of a birthday gift, they can share their page and ask friends to donate to their special cause instead.

The rise of social media has led to a more socially conscious population with the right tools to promote awareness and raise funds for social causes that affect their community.

  1. Ease of Donating

Social media has emboldened people to donate time and money not only by making them aware of issues and needs, but also by providing them with solutions to help. Websites like Just Giving, a charity platform that has so far enabled over 21 million people to raise £1.5 billion for over 13, 000 different charities, has made it easier for social media users to share causes and encourage their friends to donate, even to organisations headquartered abroad. Providing a number of ways to donate online and via text, Just Giving makes donating quick and easy, encouraging more users to do so.

Another way that social media has increased donations is through increased transparency. Donors are becoming increasingly selective of the charities they want to help, and prefer to see where the money they are donating is going. Social media offers non-profit organisations a platform through which they can share project updates and successes with status updates, reports and photographs. Donors expect updates on funds raised through special events for a specific cause, and the increased transparency on the use of funds have encouraged previously sceptical people to donate.


Flickr/CC/Franco Folini

By Zarreen Kamalie

It goes without saying that homelessness is a worldwide issue, affecting millions everywhere. Typically, an individual’s state of homelessness is a result of inadequate housing, family violence, untreated mental illnesses, social and, or personal issues. As people, they deserve a stepping-stone to self-improvement that goes beyond whatever spare change we have in our pockets.

In Cape Town, South Africa, there are roughly 7,000 homeless people, with many citing inadequate housing as their reason for being homeless. While a great deal of responsibility lies on the city’s government, there have been a few social initiatives to address people who live on the streets and find themselves uncomfortable or unable to access a night shelter.

These initiatives go by the names, Street Sleeper, Straatwerk, and, U-Turn. They address homelessness with the aim of long-term solutions, restoration of dignity, and encouraging self-improvement on one’s own terms.

Street Sleeper

Street Sleeper is a social enterprise that designed survival sleeping bags to withstand the harsh conditions at night. These sleeping bags are made of upcycled PVC advertising billboards that were being thrown away.

The sleeping bag itself weighs around 4lbs and is 87 inches long, and 30 inches wide with ample space for sleeping with multiple layers and storing belongings. The sleeping bag also doubles as a backpack during the day, with 9 feet and 8 inches of strap webbing, and a pillowslip to be filled with clothes. To withstand the cold winters of Cape Town, the sleeping is waterproof, and the hood of the sleeping is designed to shield the head.

Not only are the homeless being provided immediate relief from the harsh conditions of sleeping on the street, Street Sleeper is geared towards generating a sense of motivation and opportunity that comes from feeling valued and included by society. The production process also creates employment, for homeless people as well as local businesses involved in the bag manufacturing, thereby empowering someone to improve their situation on their own.

The cost to gift a sleeping bag is only R150 (US$11.50), and can be done so by visiting this link:




Straatwerk (pronounced Straat-verk, meaning ‘Streetwork’) is a successful NGO in the city centre that works with a team of individuals that clean up areas in the city in exchange for money and empowerment services. The initiative is generally aimed at the homeless to reduce robberies, and dependency on begging, but other individuals are welcome to participate.

One of Cape Town’s main tourist attractions is the Company’s Garden. It is also a preferred sleeping place for a good number of the city’s homeless. Straatwerk provides a team of three cleaners three times per week, to clean up around the entrance areas of the Garden. On average they collect 15 bags of litter per four-hour shift, which translates into 1,058lbs of refuse every week.

The idea behind cleaning up the area is not to degrade them in any way but rather have them reclaim a space that they know they helped in maintaining. Straatwerk also provides assistance to its team members to obtain ID documents that allow them to participate in society by working, or voting, and later they receive a recommendation for regular employment.

Wikimedia Commons/CC/HelenOnline
Wikimedia Commons/CC/HelenOnline | Street cleaner takes a break to read the newspaper on Corporation Street, Cape Town, South Africa



U-turn is a charity organisation whose initiative is focused on long-term solutions, moving away from once-off handouts and more toward sustained communication and improvement.  And it all starts with a meal voucher.

The meal voucher initiative currently operates in the Western Cape in the Claremont, Rondebosch, Kenilworth and Wynberg areas. The meal vouchers are meant to be an alternative to handing out spare change, and instead put homeless people in contact with the organisation for food, clothing, and long-term assistance.

There are 5 steps involved:

1)    First buy a pack of vouchers for R30 (US$2.30), where 1 pack contains 5 meal vouchers

2)    Then the next time someone approaches you asking for money, give a voucher to them instead

3)    On the voucher is a map and details about U-Turn. The homeless person redeems the voucher for food or clothing at one of U-Turn’s service points

4)         In addition to getting a meal, the individual becomes acquainted with U turn staff and they inform them of rehab opportunities

5)         Now the individual faces a number of opportunities that will help get them off the street, and it can all be done on their own

For more information and to buy a pack of meal vouchers by visiting this website, visit: .

If we could all contribute and engage with these initiatives, we would surely see a drop in homelessness and a rise in strong, motivated individuals who just needed a little pulling up.

Wikimedia Commons/CC/HelenOnline
Wikimedia Commons/CC/HelenOnline | Homeless person collecting recyclables in Stellenbosch, South Africa



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