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Category: Society Talks

Civil Society Leadership Reflects on Lessons from the Global Pandemic
Society Talks

Civil Society Leadership Reflects on Lessons from the Global Pandemic

Society Talks is a public dialogue hosted by the southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development and business community, civil society and the public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

In the 21st instalment, the panelists discussed the experiences and lessons learnt from the pandemic, that civil society leaders across the region can use to strengthen their personal and professional capabilities, for the communities that they serve. The panelists included Janet Zhou, executive director of ZIMCCOD, Shireen Motara, social Entrepreneur, Board Member, Executive Coach and Mentor, facilitated by Masego Madzwamuse, CEO of Southern Africa Trust.

Janet summarised a recent article she wrote, highlighting the deficiencies in the leadership of the government sector during the pandemic. She spoke of lessons she learnt through the process, starting with her preparations for ‘Doomsday’ – the lockdowns and restrictions imposed as a means to curb the spread of the virus. Seeing the traditional role of civil society as becoming almost redundant, Janet said without preparation, they would have been caught flat-footed, unable to hold the solution makers accountable. She noted that civil society should have been classified as essential work during the pandemic, so they could defend livelihoods, human rights and dignity.

The next lesson was termed ‘heavy lifting’ – keeping the communication channels between the various stakeholders open, as the activities of civil society were immobilised. This included allaying the fears of the team and the stakeholders, with regards to the continuity of their work, as well as safeguards against being exposed to the virus. Janet moved on to agility – the need to adapt to new ways of working, using digital platforms.

Shireen entered into the conversation with her observations of organizations adapting their working structures internally, embracing technology to facilitate remote working. She reflected how this ‘forced ’experiment has resulted in many of these organisations relooking at how they work, and whether or not they actually need offices anymore. She also mentioned some of the changes externally – particularly the increased engagement with donors. Shireen noted how the burden of helping communities with food, medical supplies etc. fell to civil society, rather than government; and how the communities, with extremely limited access to digital technology, really suffered.

Janet continued with her reflections on agility, and how a need arose for CSOs to equip and train the communities to use digital technology, specifically on the platforms that needed to be used. She spoke of the difficulties in coordinating the teams, but how it was facilitated by having the ‘Doomsday’ plan in place. She touched on the need for entrepreneurial leadership in the NGO and CSO space, “never waste a crisis, there are always opportunities”.

Shireen supported Janet’s comments on the need for more entrepreneurial leadership in civil society, saying that there is need for adaptability, seeing new ways of doing things. Reviewing her thoughts on what she observed, interacting as a member on Boards which she sits, Shireen said that the leaders that were open and accepting of the fact that they had to collaborate and rely on their teams were more successful at dealing with the pandemic. She said this prompted new skills to emerge. Another noteworthy action was the strategy planning, for various proposed scenarios – this kind of thinking and planning, she said, enabled forward movement.    

Lessons and Reflections of how Regional Organisations should enable Civil Society
Society Talks

Lessons and Reflections of how Regional Organisations should enable Civil Society

In the 17th instalment, the conversation reflected some of the lessons learned during the pandemic, and the recommendations from partners of the Trust. The panelists included Christabel Phiri (Programme Manager), Marlon Zakeyo (Executive Manager for Programmes) and Masego Madzwamuse (CEO), of Southern Africa Trust.

Looking at the status quo at present, compared to that in May, Marlon began with his view that young people hold the key to the future. Mentioning earlier sessions of Society Talks, he recalled that while older people were fixated on how they were going to cope with a virus about which so little was known, the youth spoke more positively about how to create a bigger and better future on the back of it. He also mentioned his admiration for the partner organizations’ resilience and adaptability to the ‘new normal’.

Christabel spoke of the vulnerability of civil society, in terms of both financial sustainability and the accessibility of resources. She said civil society organizations and non-state actors need to move from developing funding proposals to a more active role of resource generation and establishing social enterprise. Mentioning women cross border trade, she said social insurance and protection is needed more than ever. In response to organizations being unable to implement their programmes or interact with their constituencies, having to use alternative methods of communication, has highlighted the lack of technology. Also, on that note, she emphasized how important it is right now, to strengthen advocacy and ensure that governments are held accountable to implement their programmes and policies, with no further delays.

Marlon explained Regional Apex Organizations of Civil Society: umbrella associations representing different NGO organizations and social movements, these include the SADC Council of NGOs, Economic Justice Network, and Christian Councils of Southern Africa, with a sister platform representing the social movements and informal organizations.

In terms of the issues, Marlon began with the economic devastation that has been experienced by communities, and also the definition of ‘front-line workers’ – in addition to the healthcare workers, the civil society organizations who have been working with the vulnerable, must be included in this grouping. Without these CSO workers, issues like gender-based violence would not have been brought to light.

Christabel expanded on this, mentioning a movement to expand technology and communication amongst the cross-border trade associations, so that trade can be facilitated once again. Looking at access to resources and funding, there has been an effort to update membership details so that when borders reopen, trade is not delayed. In addition, opportunities for activities to generate an income while cross border trade is still prohibited, have emerged, like the making of masks.

With regards to miners and migrant workers, particularly those with occupational diseases, communication was vital to ensure access to healthcare. CSOs have had to engage with government on behalf of these extremely vulnerable constituencies, finding ways to work around pandemic restrictions at times.

There has been collaboration between the private sector and various organizations, to bring aid to those most in need. An example was mining communities, who’s most pressing need was food.    

Marlon reflected on how so many interactions, even weddings and funerals, have become digital, and how there is a risk of exclusion for members of communities who do not have access. He also spoke of the collaboration between groups – in times of a pandemic, no organization can work alone, if success is to be achieved.  

Looking at social protection, and the deficit in funding, most the funding at present comes from donors, which is obviously limited. Governments need to be engaged, to see how much they can allocate to social protection systems, to ensure a basic level of income protection for most of their citizens.

Christabel spoke of the unique opportunity that has been provided through the pandemic, showing us what the challenges are, where the most important issues lie. Programmes can be finetuned to address the needs of specific groups, like smallholder farmers and women cross border traders.

Marlon expounded on the Basic Income Grant, and how this needs to be developed – using the experiences of people during this pandemic, to prepare for the next one, or the next natural disaster. He said there needs to be an understanding that social protection is not a privilege, or a handout, it’s a basic right.

Summing up the three biggest issues, Masego listed social protection, ending hunger and food insecurity, and rethinking of the economic system.

In response to Masego’s question of what the ideal future in Southern Africa would look like to them, the panelists replied:

  • Solidarity within the sector
  • Partnerships between civil society and the private sector
  • Digital transformation
  • Strengthening of operations, specifically in saving
  • Improved access to information – shared experiences, knowledge, research, data
  • More integration of cultures within the SADC region
  • More equality, in terms of healthcare
  • A self-reliant Southern Africa in terms of food security, falling back on traditional practices
  • The re-defining of front-line / essential workers
  • A stronger education system
  • Robust community organizations


The Private Sector, Agriculture and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Society Talks

The Private Sector, Agriculture and the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the 16th instalment, the conversation focused on the increased pressure on food security in Southern Africa, exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic, especially for smallholder farmers, rural and vulnerable groups. The panellists included by Lusanda Ncoliwe, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Tulo Makwati, co-ordinator of the SADC Business Council, Zachy Mbenna, executive director of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation, facilitated by Ian Mashingaidze, of behalf of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS).

Lusanda opened the dialogue with her view on the interconnectivity between private business and the farmers – and how this link between the food source and the private sector is really important. Discussing the advantages of the Free Trade Agreement, Lusanda touched on the possibility of being able to trade freely within SADC and the rest of Africa, closing the food security gap.

Speaking of the impact of COVID-19, she said that during the lockdown, smallholder farmers were excluded from the value chain, yet retailers remained open and trading. This had an effect on the people who were not able to access these retailers or afford the inflated food prices. One of the main problems is legislation, and the lack thereof that does not allow free trade between countries in Africa. Lusanda believes that the problem is not that there is insufficient food to feed Africa, but that legislation and red tape is hindering the ability to direct food to where it is needed.

Tulo gave a bit of background on the purpose of the SADC Business Council – chiefly the inclusion and consultation of private sector in policy processes. Another key area is the promoting of regional values chains, primarily in the areas of mining, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals, through workshops. He said the biggest problem that emerges from these sessions, is the need to domesticate the regional policies. Tulo also mentioned the need to popularise the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, focusing on how small countries will benefit.

Zachy joined in with his statement of how pandemics don’t recognise boundaries, borders and rules, and how we have learnt a valuable lesson about the importance of not looking inward, not reducing efforts to national borders or member states, but to have a bigger picture of regions in mind. He spoke about the potential for growth, if member states use competitive advantage – focusing on the abilities and resources available to grow as a region, rather than as individual countries.

He gave an example of how linking sectors can be advantageous: agri-business, when linked to industrialisation, to manufacturing, to food processing and trade, can more easily achieve its goals. He also spoke of the regional policies and protocols, and the need for continuous support of these, as well as their alignment with the greater goals. Looking at an example of inter connectivity, Zachy spoke of the Southern Agricultural Highland Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), and its exceptional commercial success.

In response to a question of how the private sector is using digital transformation to develop the region, Lusanda said the COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the use of technology. She said that while these can be used in all areas, it forced the private sector to find new ways of doing business – giving an example of a project she completed using technology, where before they would have physically visited 4 or 5 countries in the duration of the project. Finding new ways to collaborate and blend skills has been one of the silver linings of the pandemic.

Speaking on how the private sector has supported the smallholder farmers during the pandemic, Zachy mentioned how the policy regarding small and medium enterprises in Tanzania has been reviewed, to include them in the economy, through linkages. Also, financing has been discussed, as well as training in agriculture.

Tulo added to this with his comments on the SADC Pharmaceuticals Working Group, and how they want to promote and harmonise the registration policy in the region, as well as conduct research and development, which is currently very low. He also spoke of the working group they have established for the cross-border trade – a regional initiative to determine the needs and issues of this group, to increase accessibility of trade.

Lusanda, in response to a question about more access to technology, she said mobile phones must be used as the starting point for communications with the people on the ground. She also spoke of the technological advances in farming, and how government needs to implement use of drones.

In conclusion, the panellists summed up their key points:

Lusanda: the interconnectedness of the value chain, from source to consumer; co-operation between African countries to ensure food security; the importance of the FTA.

Zachy: private sector should make purposeful efforts to invest in people, to take advantage of resources; make the strategies and policies of SADC more relevant to the people at grassroots levels; willingness to make trade and economic activities possible within the region.

Tulo: the need to identify the most pressing trade barriers; domesticate regional policies.

Click there to watch the full airing.

Unclaimed Social Security Benefits and Impact of COVID-19 on Migrant Mine Workers
Society Talks

Unclaimed Social Security Benefits and Impact of COVID-19 on Migrant Mine Workers

In the 16th installment, the conversation focused on the challenges of migrant mine workers during the pandemic, specifically their inability to claim owed social security benefits, and their existing comorbidities that expose them to higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The panelists included Naledi Monnakgosi, board secretary of the Botswana Labour Migrants Association, Vama Jele, co-ordinator of Southern Africa Mineworkers Association (SAMA), Kerrin Odendaal, Health Focus SA, Kitso Phiri, Independent Consultant in the field of Human Rights in the mining sector, facilitated by Christabel Phiri, of Southern Africa Trust.

Christabel gave a brief background of the various compensation and relief funds in South Africa, available to migrant mine workers who have contracted diseases or occupational injuries. Unclaimed benefits amount to approximately ZAR ten billion.

Kitso outlined the challenges posed to ex-miners, one of the major ones being the advent of technology, and the new processes required to access claims electronically. Government has not facilitated the process, in terms of support and infrastructure, thwarting the process.

From the fund side, Kerrin spoke of a project she has been involved in, creating a database of the miners, to facilitate payments from the various funds. Problems arise with missing or incomplete documentation, contact details that are not updated, and tracking and tracing the migrant workers.  

From the miner’s perspective, Naledi shared their challenges: lack of money for food, homes, livestock, inability to work further due to age, illness, or injury. This also trickles down to the surviving family members of miners who have passed: children have not received adequate education, mothers cannot find work that supports their needs, widows struggle with grief and inability to earn, as well as receiving no support from their late husband’s families.

Vama explained the process that is in place to assist these stricken groups, from the eight member countries: South Africa, eSwatini, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Namibia. Associations exist in each of these countries to assist in claims, as well as advocating for rights. They also supply medical assistance to those suffering from occupational illnesses, like lung disease. Vama brought in COVID-19 and how the lockdown restrictions have prevented much of the face-to-face work they do. Using technology has been difficult, as it had not been implemented prior to the pandemic. A major stumbling block is that SAMA is not part of the decision-making process, when it comes to the claim and payment process, they can only implement according to the protocols.

Christabel spoke of an urgent need to review the current legislation around compensation and payments, discussing with the funds about what can be done with the unpaid monies. Issues around information and dissemination, a co-ordinated database that can be accessed by multiple funds, tax exemptions and cross-country money transfers are vital to facilitating the processes.

Discussing the landmark Silicosis settlement, Kitso mentioned the establishment of the Trust intended to organize payments, to gold miners employed by one of the six mining companies in the law suit, those exposed to risk work, within the periods of 1965-2019. This too, applies to dependents of late mine workers. Running for 12 years, the Trust hopes to distribute the funds fairly to those who qualify.

Closing thoughts on what is needed now:

  • Naledi: income generating projects for widows and children.
  • Kerrin: streamline the processes; reduce duplication of documents; use technology to track and trace.
  • Kitso: a single legal/regulatory framework is needed that can be used by all the funds, regardless of which country the mine workers are from or have returned to – this will reduce the massive administration associated with claims.
  • Vama: strengthen the partnerships between the various funds; build capacity within the mine associations using online solutions; advocate for and mobilize miners and their families; food security for suffering families who have been unable to claim, due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 Impact on SADC Food Systems, Smallholder Agriculture and Policy Options
Society Talks

COVID-19 Impact on SADC Food Systems, Smallholder Agriculture and Policy Options

Society Talks is a public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development community, business and the general public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

In its thirteenth instalment, the conversation focused on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women farmers in Africa, as well as looking at the challenges faced by smallholder farmers. The panellists included Graça Machel, Founder of the Graça Machel Trust and Chair of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS); Domingos Gove, Director of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, SADC Secretariat; Ruth Hall, Chair and Professor at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS); Elizabeth Swai, Founder member of African Agribusiness Academy, and Head of Africa Women in Agribusiness; Beatrice Makwenda, Head of Policy and Communication of the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi, and Coordinator of the Rural Women’s Assembly(Malawi); moderated by Bronwyn Nielsen, Founder and CEO of Nielsen Network.

Mama Machel opened the dialogue with a statement of how the pandemic has exacerbated all the existing issues of social and economic inequality and injustices. She said that COVID-19 has brought these issues to the forefront, where they could no longer be ignored. While none of these issues are new, the lockdown restrictions implemented by various countries spurred action in feeding the impoverished and marginalized communities. The inadequacy of the policies and the lack of investment are well known, but it has taken the COVID-19 pandemic to shake us into action.

She also emphasized that the hunger of people in SADC should not be tolerated any more. By sharing knowledge and technology, she said Africa has the resources to do this, but needs to be mobilized to invest in smallholder farmers. Women in farming must be represented, and empowered to harness digitization, placed at the centre stage of agriculture, health, and education.

Ruth opened with her statement of how the crisis in the food system is not going to be resolved by focusing only on increased food production. She said the pandemic has brought the issues into focus, but that the way we have been addressing them has possibly only aggravated them. Mentioning how half of all the households in South Africa ran out of money to feed themselves by mid-April during the lockdown, shows that the legitimacy of our national government is in question. Ruth called the problem of food shortages colonial, where many of the rural and indigenous people do not have access to land, despite over three decades of (failed) land redistribution programmes. The unsolved problems of a colonial legacy are happening alongside the current issues.

She pointed out how the smaller scale producers and informal value chains have been disrupted during lockdown, while large corporate value chains have been protected and continue to operate. To solve hunger problems, we need to move away from global commodity chains, stop relying on imports and re-localize food systems.    

Moving forward, the two main issues for change are:

  • A need for income support
  • The structural changes in our food system, specifically seed policy, access to common resources of water and land, regulating the private sector so smallholder farmers can sell their products in the big supermarkets.

Elizabeth spoke of the lockdown in Tanzania, and of policies of trade restrictions. The trade barriers are hindering the ability to solve hunger in the area, into other countries, but this is a problem that existed before COVID-19.

Beatrice explained the anxiety of the disruption that the pandemic bought to small scale women farmers, who in March, were gearing up for the harvesting season. Market access, including cross-border, shut down, causing massive waste as farmers were unable to sell their produce. The ensuing discussions were thwarted by the inability to interact, due to lockdown restrictions, excluding the very farmers who needed to be heard.  So, communication virtually broke down between the organisations and the smallholder farmers. She spoke of the need for investment in emergency policies in regional and national levels, as well as the need for access to inputs, like finance. Digitalizing needs to be broader and cheaper to increase access.

Domingos reflected on SADC’s response to the impact of the pandemic– noting how there are currently 45 million food insecure southern Africans,10% up on last year’s figures. He also touched on the malnutrition and stunted growth of children. In response to the question of how SADC can fast track the response for smallholder farmers, Domingos explained how they are looking for ways to increase the voice of society, as well as looking to the existing policies and structures and how these can be fast tracked so the benefit can trickle down to women and children.

In response to a question about land reform policy in Mozambique, Mama Machel explained how the process is involving all the individuals and CSOs from different regions, which brings sharing and knowledge. But, they are wary that changing the land policy may open a gap for big corporates.

Domingos reflected that a committee of stakeholders, CSOs and smallholder farmers to address SADC’s response to COVID-19 would be a good idea, but that they are obligated to use existing channels of communication.

Ruth brought up the global financial crisis of 2008, and how it brought massive foreign investor interest in African land and water, essentially a land grab much like in colonial times. She foresees this happening again, with climate change and growing global populations, pressure on Africa’s natural resources will mount.

Elizabeth reiterated that existing strategies don’t work, that technology and crowd funding should be encouraged, as well as a database where statistics of farmers can be managed internally. She also said it is high time that policies were reviewed to change them to actual plans and results.

Beatrice spoke of a need to look at investments and see where they are going, to get the economies working again for the farmers, ensuring access to production inputs, and building resilience against climate change.

Masego closed with her summing up of the lack of solidarity at the role women play in the smallholder farming sector, and the need to rethink the policies and the agricultural food system and examine what is required at a practical level.

Click here to watch the full webinar


Society Talks is a weekly public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development and business community, civil society and the public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

Connect and participate every Wednesday at 16h00 Central Africa time (GMT +2).

Society Talks

Rethinking the Social and Economic Order for the Future – A Feminist Perspective

Society Talks is a public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development community, business and the general public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

In the twelfth instalment, the conversation centred on a feminist view of social inclusion, post pandemic – a time for inspirational leadership that sustains the energy gained during the pandemic. The panel included Âurea Mouzinho, a Political Economist and Feminist Activist (Angola), Hesphina Rukato, Author, Development Consultant and Feminist Activist (Zimbabwe), Memory Kachambwa, the Executive Director of FEMNET (Kenya), hosted by Masego Madzwamuse,CEO of the Southern Africa Trust.

Opening the conversation, Âurea shared her view of how although the COVID-19 pandemic started as a health crisis, it very quickly evolved into a crisis of injustice, inequality and care, both on a social and economic level. She and Hesphina felt that the feminist viewpoint is vital in future planning, with Hesphina bringing the example of women-led countries having a better response to the pandemic, than others. She also mentioned the need to address the emotional, psychological, and spiritual support across the continent that has been lacking during the pandemic.

Memory supported the statement of the lack of female leadership in Africa and the world, and how the pandemic could have been handled differently. She said that Africa has resilience in coping with crises, citing HIV and Ebola as examples, and should build on this, creating home grown resources and solutions, and not relying so much on help from the West. Acare-centred economy is needed, as seen during COVID-19, where the burden on women has been so great.

Commenting on the pandemic response from Angola, Âurea spoke of the large portion of female population in the informal economy that were not assisted. She also mentioned her disappointment in the lack of support for women and girls affected by gender-based violence, as well as the inability of women to work during the lockdown, because of school closures and the need to look after their children. She touched on the response (or lack thereof)from SADC with regards to debt repayment or cancellation.

Hesphina touched on the lack of trust between governments and its citizens, saying this is what must change. She said we should use the plans for an improved social, political, and economic future as developed by women leaders, as the voice to government, moving forward – a clear plan of action.

“Moving from celebrating aid that enables us to breathe, to a space where we are clear about what our vision is.”

Memory looked at the humanitarian response to COVID-19, and how feminist rights are lacking. She said that post-pandemic is a good time to reorganise the way economies are structured, to challenge global economic powers, shaping a vision that is not centred on COVID as a humanitarian crisis, but using COVID as the benchmark.

Hesphina and Âurea spoke about civic engagement and the need to stop looking at governments for solutions, but rather focus on their accountability.

“COVID brings a fundamental lesson, that we are as weak as the weakest.”

Memory spoke of the development of female economic empowerment, how they are building a movement of African Macro Economics. She also spoke of how they are targeting teens and young adolescents to encourage more investment in female support. Collective action is needed for women to achieve together.

In response to the question of whether or not Africa has the kind of leadership that can challenge the world order, Hesphina said there is a need to look at the leadership in a collective way: political, economic and social, women, me n civil society – all stakeholders together can face the challenge. Memory added to this, saying that most of the leadership in Africa was not democratically elected, which makes it difficult to embrace the agenda. She said it is up to civil society to challenge the leadership to ensure it puts the wellbeing of its people at the centre. Âurea added the need to engage with indigenous groups and feminist movements in other countries, to strengthen collective power that can challenge the anti-democratic authoritarian surge.

Click here to watch the full webinar


Society Talks is a weekly public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development and business community, civil society and the public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

Connect and participate every Wednesday at 16h00 Central Africa time (GMT +2).

Youth Social Entrepreneurship in Africa
Society Talks

Youth Social Entrepreneurship in Africa

Society Talks is a public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development community, business and the general public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

In the ninth instalment, the conversation focused on young social entrepreneurship in Africa, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The panellists included Esi Otchere, Recruitment Associate at Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (Ghana), Emmanuel Marfo, co-founder and Consultant of Global Shapers Community & Innovation Hub (Ghana), and Lemogang Senwelo, co-founder of The Pereil Group and Leadership and Governance Mentor (Botswana), hosted by Marlon Zakeyo of the Southern Africa Trust.

Esi opened the conversation with an overview of her work with an organization she is involved with, looking at health and women empowerment. Even before COVID-19 hit, there was concern in West Africa about the health care system. People have found ways to bring health care to those who cannot afford it or do not have access, using technology like simple apps. Another focus has been finding employment opportunities for marginalized women, upskilling them to make them more employable, especially those in rural communities. A big part of this is instilling confidence, that then supports their ability.

Lemogang spoke about the disruption that the pandemic has caused, since much of the work in her company involves bringing people into the country. She said they have increased the use of social media platforms and technology to maintain the contact and communication with the young people they mentor and the leadership in their ecosystem. Interestingly, the theme set at the beginning of the year for African Youth Entrepreneur Summit was Upskilling the Industrial Workforces in Preparation for Africa’s Digital Transformation – a most fortuitous topic.

Emmanuel echoed Esi and Lemogang’s comments on the uptake of digital technology to continue their mentoring programme. He said that some of the social entrepreneurs have come up with innovations to help with PPE protocols, but that there has been less engagement and less policy development during lockdown. Funding has also been slowed, but the mood and energy is still buoyant.

In response to a question of what skills citizens need to sharpen to grow sustainable enterprises, Esi spoke of the need to find a cause that motivates, and work towards that. She said it’s easy to become an expert in something if you are passionate about it, and the key then is to find a way to make an impact that has social benefit. Using technology to achieve your goals, like coding or social media marketing, is essential to success.

Lemogang added that ‘heart’ – being emotionally invested in what you do – is at the core of social entrepreneurship. This, coupled with a goal of what social impact it will have, is what will see you through the difficult times of developing a business. The right mindset is as important as the skills, knowing how you want it turn out, regardless of what happens along the way.

In the context of mentoring, Emmanuel expressed the need for good communication skills, citing an example where young social entrepreneurs were given an opportunity to talk about their ideas on national television –engagement and lobbying skills are essential. He also spoke of a need to understand process, to come up with realistic solutions. Reflecting on how many social entrepreneurs want to develop their business alone, he said this is what would limit them, or hold them back. If you don’t have the necessary skills, you need to collaborate with those who do, to add exponential growth to the development and implementation of ideas. Teamwork is a skill that should not be underestimated.

Marlon reiterated the need for partnerships and teamwork, especially now as people are separated. For smaller social businesses and NGOs to survive, it’s vital to remain united and encourage collaboration.

Addressing gender equality in youth social entrepreneurship, Esi spoke of the need for organizations to be more deliberate in their search for female talent. There should be more encouragement and support for women and girls to enter the tech and science space and be coached to take risks.

Lemogang, in response to the question of going beyond profit objectives, shared her personal difficult journey of her entrepreneurship. Realizing that other young people would go through similar challenges and obstacles, she decided she would rather help and empower youth so they can stay on track and not suffer through the process.

Speaking to the challenges of collaboration between social entrepreneurs and the private sector, Emmanuel explained how private sector need governance and trust – they want to see the systems and checks that have been put in place. He also mentioned that the private sector needs to be recognized for their contributions, so the impact must be demonstrated, or the partnerships will fail. He said the importance is not only coming up with a solution to a challenge, and getting the funding to implement it, but to be able to demonstrate all aspects of the effort, for sustainability of the opportunity.  

On the subject of mental health, Esi spoke on support structures for young entrepreneurs. She said there is already access for people who need it, to psychologists and mental health workers, but that the first step was for a person to reach out and recognize that they need help. Lemogang added to this, by sharing her coping mechanisms: speaking to her coaches, mentors and her employees; keeping busy with initiatives that are coming up; and trying not to only see the negative impact of the pandemic.

Emmanuel addressed the question of social entrepreneurship in politically unstable economies, like Zimbabwe or Sudan. He said that policy engagement is more effective when approached by a group, rather than individuals.  

In closing, Marlon asked the panelists to paint a picture of what their post-pandemic Africa would be like:

  • More global power – more of a voice in a crisis
  • More connectivity, and with it, more exposure within the world
  • Young people are given a platform to speak, and be heard
  • Opportunities are offered, not fought for
  • Resources are found and used effectively
  • More collaboration among young entrepreneurs to solve problems.

Click here to watch the full webinar


Society Talks is a weekly public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development and business community, civil society and the public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

Connect and participate every Wednesday at 16h00 Central Africa time (GMT +2).

Supporting Indigenous Communities in Africa Beyond COVID-19
Society Talks

Supporting Indigenous Communities in Africa Beyond COVID-19

Society Talks is a public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development community, business and the general public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

In the eleventh instalment, the discussion looked at the disproportionate affect that the pandemic has had on indigenous communities, which has magnified structural inequalities and discrimination – and how critical long-term solutions are needed post-COVID. The panel included Lesle Jansen, Programme Director at Natural Justice, Kanyinke Sena, Director at the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC), and Job Morris, Co-founder and Director of the San Youth Network, hosted by Masego Madzwamuse, CEO of the Southern Africa Trust.

Lesle opened the dialogue by sharing background on indigenous people in Africa. She mentioned a study that looked at indigenous populations in 19 African countries – and how some communities within the region, particularly those with hunter-gatherer forms of land economies, are not accessing their human rights on a par with other African societies.

Job spoke about the San Youth Network, a recently opened organization working towards the needs of San Youth, including health, culture, and movement. Most recently, the work has been focused on delivering aid and information with regards to COVID-19.

Kanyinke discussed the work of IPACC, which is to promote the rights of indigenous people in Africa. With 135 organizations forming the network, the focus has been on environmental climate change, the anticipation of war, and women’s rights. He also highlighted some of the impacts that the pandemic has had on indigenous communities, like the effect of border closures on nomadic groups who have livestock that graze cross borders, and the lack of access to information about COVID-19, because of the channels used.

Kanyinke also delved into the increased burden on women, due to COVID-19, and a new development of how the school closures have resulted in a sharp rise in teenage pregnancies.

Lesle spoke of the challenges that indigenous people face, due to the lack of human rights.  Communities are not able to engage with policy makers, the geographical location of communities is too remote – special measure are needed to ensure that these communities are not left behind. The approaches to community engagement: consultation, participation, people being able to give consent – are difficult to implement if people are not recognised as a group.

Job expanded on some of the challenges, bringing up gender violence, as a result of increased stress experienced during the restrictions. He also raised the lack of food, and the resulting hunger, which has caused poaching.

Looking to solutions, Kanyinke spoke of how IPACC is working towards curating information for indigenous communities, that is distributed, understood, and accepted. He also spoke about basic measures, like providing water tanks to promote hand washing, free masks, and health services for the infected. Without these, the effects of the virus when it does arrive in indigenous communities, will be devastating.    

Job spoke of the difficulty with communication, with languages that are not recognized, or even understood by the organizations trying to help.

Lesle said that civil society groups should put all their weight behind advocating for the human rights and struggles of these groups, who are the custodians of heritage and biodiversity. In closing, the panelists collectively advised on the need for the preservation of language, culture and heritage, of these communities.

Click here to watch the full webinar


Society Talks is a weekly public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development and business community, civil society and the public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society.

Connect and participate every Wednesday at 16h00 Central Africa time (GMT +2).

The Importance of Disaster Preparedness in a Time of Climate Change
Society Talks

The Importance of Disaster Preparedness in a Time of Climate Change

In the eighth instalment of Society Talks, the conversation focused on the need for disaster preparedness, to ensure that the impact of natural disasters and pandemics are kept to a minimum, especially in reflection of the Cyclone Idai and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The panelists included Maggie Mwape, Co-Chair of the Southern Africa Youth Forum and Executive Director for the Centre for Environmental Justice, Chikondi Chabvuta, Southern African Humanitarian Advisor for Action Aid International, Wellington Mahohoma, a volunteer for the Citizens Initiative in Zimbabwe, hosted by Masego Madzwamuse, CEO of the Southern Africa Trust.

Chikondi responded to the question of what previous disasters like Cyclone Idai have taught us, starting with how the community needs early warning messages, even if that information is not entirely accurate (from Weather Bureau). Having preparedness plans in place, educates the community on what steps they need to take, as well as mapping community groups and government agencies that offer support and resources. Another shortfall is how the culprits behind the climate change are not taking the lead in responding (climate justice). From the COVID-19 perspective, it just highlights the existing vulnerabilities and challenges on a humanitarian level, globally.

Undertaking a vulnerability analysis involves checking the risks that exist in that community, who is impacted by the risks, with the community themselves coming up with mechanisms that can address the challenges– a process that is most successful when led by women.

Maggie told of how the SADC region has a Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for helping countries affected by natural disasters, in terms of financial and technical support, but as a region, we are not ready. The challenge is always resources, followed by difficulty in implementing the strategies and innovations.

Wellington shared how his organization, in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, appealed on social media for donations, the response of which was quite good – demonstrating that there is a new platform for support. He mentioned corruption and how sad it is that it exists in times of disaster management. Also talking to trust and credibility of the information that is sent out to communities, and if they use that information.

Chikondi spoke of how there seems to be very little learning from each disaster. Relating to a meeting in Zimbabwe earlier in the year, she noted how strong the response was from the community for a need to be involved in the planning to ensure that their grassroots structures are actually working. This includes using their indigenous knowledge as well as science to inform planning and making people accountable when the plans don’t work. Masego also mentioned how the information about climate change that links to the natural disasters, is not getting through to the communities, so planning and policies are not built on the knowledge.

Maggie explained that the language used to explain climate change must be one that is understood at the community level – so that the people understand their roles and their rights in claiming for climate justice. This enables them to take part in forming the solutions.

Wellington spoke on the need to account for every dollar of donated money, as well as ensuring that value is obtained. He said a project’s progress could be tracked on social media – enabling the quick sharing of information (money, spending etc.) – and this would be a big step towards avoiding corruption. Also, making communities aware that they have the right to demand accountability from the office bearers, that need to go beyond the point of just receiving aid.

Chikondi reiterated the need for accountability for the various Disaster Funds and resources that are available for people, making them more accessible. She said there must be decentralization of these funds, ensuring the communities know about them and can access them. Maggie supported Chikondi’s statement, saying that the criteria for recipients of benefits actually disadvantages the community.

Chikondi stated that all the agencies in the region are working towards resilience – the key being that they need to work together, have collective action. Wellington spoke of his desire for communities to get to the point of being able to look after themselves. By relating to the communities as partners, you achieve more, in less time.

Looking to the future, we need to bridge the gap between government and civil society – a shared space to engage with community. To aspire to resilient communities where there is social justice and people’s rights upheld, with women and youth taking charge.

Click here to watch the full webinar.


Society Talks is a weekly public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development and business community, civil society and the public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society. 

Connect and participate every Wednesday at 16h00 Central Africa time (GMT +2).

The Experiences of Community Foundations Amidst COVID-19 Responses
Society Talks

The Experiences of Community Foundations Amidst COVID-19 Responses

In the seventh instalment of Society Talks, the conversation focused on the experiences of the community foundations who play a major role in meeting the needs of marginalized people, during COVID-19. Panelists included Beulah Fredericks, Executive Director of the Community Development Foundation Western Cape, Jeremy Maarman, Director for the Initiative of Community Advancement, Niaina Harijaona,Technical Coordinator of the Citizens Organization for Common Interests Defense Madagascar)and Busisa Moyo, Chairman of I Am For Bulawayo Fighting COVID-19 Trust (Zimbabwe); facilitated by Marlon Zakeyo, of the Southern Africa Trust.

Beulah opened the narrative with a brief background of the work she does within the Community Development Foundation. Focusing on the upliftment and empowerment of women and children, Youth Civic Engagement, the Green Economy (sustainable livelihoods and the taking back of empty spaces), and the Giving Economy (helping communities with horizontal philanthropy), Beulah specifically listens for burning issues within communities, talking less and listening more. The Foundation also covers the constitutional building of CBOs, looking at issues of governance, accountability, capacity building and training.

Jeremy started with an explanation of community foundations– mechanisms for community giving, financial and other, usually based around a community fund that addresses specific issues. Community members can give to the fund by debit orders or through fund raising events, thereby giving the community the ability to fund and support their own development.  

Niaina summarized the general feeling in Madagascar towards COVID-19 as being very fearful, with civil society organizations being limited by travel restrictions, experiencing delays with activity implementation, delays with payments and struggling to continue their work.

Busisa outlined the situation of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, saying they have had a spike in infections since people have started returning from South Africa. Currently on Level 2, Zimbabwe schools and churches remain closed, as well as some high-risk business sectors. He mentioned the broad suffering by many of the population due to the lockdown, and the inability to generate an income.

In discussing the impact on community foundations, Beulah explained how they were not set up for remote working. She explained how their group, the CDF, had no new funding so started the response to the pandemic on aback foot – many of the initiatives and fund-raising events were suspended – so they focused their efforts on solidarity. She said the overwhelming call from the community was not for money, rather for emotional support. The community-led response was impressive, enabling feeding programmes through the existing networks. The gaps she noted were in mental health, access to information and the lack of technology. Sadly, she speculated that the foundation may not survive many more months.

Jeremy said that the bringing of people together has not been possible, thwarting fundraising efforts and planned engagements. In response, they have launched an online talk show, with a strong youth focus, discussing among others, mental health issues. They were asked to deliver food security services in their ward, using Meal on Wheels and community donations.

Niaina said the response was mainly focused on the affected urban areas, distributing a mix of cash allowances, and food and hygiene parcels. The biggest problem was identifying who should benefit from these subsidies, which was difficult due to high levels of corruption, with a lack of transparency and reporting on funds used. The civil society groups are trying to advocate for more collaboration and exchange of information with other groups and donors.

Busisa explained how they have not had the resources to reach everybody, especially the marginalized communities on the outskirts of the region, but the government has promised social grants to vulnerable groups in rural areas. The real challenge is the cities, where hunger has become a burning issue. The civil society groups are having to identify these families and act fast.

Beulah explained how the approach initially was to deliver food parcels, but in a bid to restore dignity, they shifted to giving out small grants, which included money for food, taxi fares and data. She felt this was as strategic move on the part of the foundation, to show the community they were acting on their requests, really listening, the outcome of which promoted the horizontal sharing among community members.

In conclusion, Jeremy said the biggest lesson learned showed that people can get through whatever life throws at them, collectively and with collaboration. Niaina said their biggest lesson was the relations the civil society organizations have at grassroots level, during the travel restrictions that prevented many of their activities. This is what enabled them to know what was happening across the country. Another key point they noticed was with the increased reliance on technology to communicate, they had to rely on the youth-based organizations to facilitate. Busisa’s key observations were: to pay attention to the development of health care sector, building resilience through private, corporate and public sector cooperation and participation; to study value chain resilience, that is to be able to provide at least food for the country in times of crisis; and to apply this thinking to the region (Sub Saharan Africa), looking at neighboring countries and the need for cross-border collaboration in times of a global pandemic.

Click here to watch the full webinar


Society Talks is a weekly public dialogue hosted by the Southern Africa Trust through a live stream on YouTube. The dialogue brings together stakeholders within the development and business community, civil society and the public to inform, engage and share experiences with the broader society. 

Connect and participate every Wednesday at 16h00 Central Africa time (GMT +2).