Executive director of the Wilderness Foundation, Andrew Muir was one of five leading innovators named as the Social Entrepreneurs of the Year 2012 Africa by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Thursday, May 10, 2012.
“This award will help us to build on what has already been established with regards to the Umzi Wethu programme as well as our other social investment and environmental programmes. We will have access to the Schwab Foundation’s global network, providing unprecedented opportunities to engage global decision makers,” says Muir. The Wilderness Foundation is headquartered in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape .
The awards were presented to the winners by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, on the opening day of the meeting in the presence of President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of Nigeria, President Jakaya M. Kikwete of Tanzania, and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.
“Africa has seen tremendous growth over the past decade,” said Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. “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. They ensure that growth, such as that experienced in Africa, is and will be inclusive.”
The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship was founded by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, and his wife, Hilde. Since its inception in 2000, the Foundation has been identifying the world’s leading social entrepreneurs in over 40 countries around the globe.
Two of the main programme areas that the Wilderness Foundation focuses on include Social Intervention and Experiential Environmental Education. The Umzi Wethu programme is one of the foundation’s flagship intervention projects. Aimed at displaced and socially vulnerable youth, the three Umzi Wethu academies train young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 for jobs in the hospitality and eco-tourism sectors.
Umzi Wethu harnesses the power of the wilderness, promotes personal wellness in a nurturing home context, provides credible training, and secures sustainable job placements in the hospitality and eco-tourism industry on behalf of the graduates.
In the area of Experiential Environmental Education, the Wilderness Foundation has established the “Pride” and “Imbewu” projects which were developed to fulfil the need for an environmental education outreach programmes among disadvantaged youth from urban and rural areas.
“I believe that our main strength as a foundation is the integration of social intervention and environmental sustainability. We are not just a conservation-oriented organisation. The Wilderness Foundation recognises that the sustainability of South Africa’s wild lands and wilderness is intrinsically dependant on its social and economic sustainability,” says Muir.
The five winners who have been selected as the 2012 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year Africa are:
- Andrew Muir, Executive Director, Wilderness Foundation, South Africa: The Wilderness Foundation, founded in 1972, integrates conservation programmes with social and educational programmes. It has trained thousands of youth to be community leaders and national park rangers. 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 benefitted from the Wilderness Foundation through its social intervention and environmental education programmes.
- Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Co-Founder and Managing Director, soleRebels, Ethiopia: SoleRebels taps into Ethiopia’s rich artisan heritage to create durable, stylish and eco-friendly footwear for international markets. The company offers training and employment to hundreds of underprivileged workers in Ethiopia, creating a new employment model for local enterprises. By using recycled automobile tires for the rubber soles and other environmentally friendly practices, soleRebels is committed to a zero carbon footprint.
- Sameer Hajee, Chief Executive Officer, Nuru Energy Group, Rwanda: With many homes in sub-Saharan Africa not connected to electricity grids, Nuru Energy works with micro-entrepreneurs to disseminate its Nuru LED light, which can be recharged using an off-grid, pedal-powered platform. The LED light gives up to 26 hours of light and costs one-sixth of kerosene to recharge. To date, Nuru Energy has set up 70 village-level entrepreneurs who have sold 10,000 Nuru lights.
- Paul Scott Matthew, Director Africa, North Star Alliance, South Africa: In the 1990s, Paul Matthew saw the alarming impacts of HIV/AIDS on mobile workers such as truck drivers and realized these workers lacked access to basic healthcare. North Star Alliance provides mobile workers and related communities with continual 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 2005 in Malawi, North Star has grown to 22 centres in 10 countries.
- Seri Youlou and Thomas Granier, Co-Founders, Association la Voute Nubienne, Burkina Faso: More than a decade ago, Seri Youlou, a farmer from Burkina Faso, and Thomas Granier, a French mason, built a Nubian vault home in Burkina Faso, Association la Vaute Nubienne. By training farmers in the construction of homes with vaulted earth-brick roofs, provides an affordable, ecologically sustainable housing alternative and source of income to farmers during the off-seasons. Today, more than 200 masons have built over 1,300 Nubian vault homes in West Africa.