“We’re the most unequal country in the world.”
Before he reinvented himself as a social entrepreneur, Patmanathan Pillai was a renowned national TV news anchor in South Africa for 15 years. In 1997 he created LifeCo UnLtd South Africa, which invests in impact businesses and grows social impact entrepreneurs. LifeCo was voted among the top 10 most trusted NGOs in South Africa; it was also named a "Best for the World" B Corp in 2019.
Founded in a backyard, with only a handful of students determined to change mindsets and the narrative of previously disadvantaged black youths, the venture has morphed into a stellar enterprise employing business principles for social impact.
Pat and his organization strive to build a sustainable nation of champions by serving as a conduit – providing essential projects in entrepreneurial education, support for and investment in impact enterprises, thereby contributing to societal and environmental well-being and ultimately to achieving a reduction of poverty and inequality.
The 2016/2017 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey notes that Africa is the region reporting the most positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship. The South African government’s National Development Plan, for example, expects small businesses to create some 90% of new jobs. Decisive action to create an enabling environment is urgently needed, as is much broader access to quality education, capital, and public tenders.
LifeCo has a long-standing partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to build the champion within youth and leaders globally. For our BMW Foundation Global Table in Cape Town, South Africa, we partnered with both organizations. The goal of our leadership program was to explore opportunities for creating equitable and fair chances for all. Pat was among our participants; he is also a member of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network.