Revealing True Potential – A Story About a South African Social Enterprise

Erol Gurian
Sustainable Development

Showing what’s possible when actively investing in education: this is the mission of TSIBA, a social enterprise based in South Africa. We visited TSIBA during the BMW Foundation’s Responsible Leaders Forum in Johannesburg last year and met CEO Riedwaan (Rudi) Kimmie and alumni Cebisa Malukwana .

In the nineteenth century, South Africa grew rich and prosperous through the export of diamonds, gold, and other minerals. But the political system around this industry also developed Apartheid, one of the most infamous racial segregation systems in history. In its aftermath, the country is still facing a host of severe challenges: A whole generation of mainly black and marginalised communities is lacking education. Currently, South Africa also festers with corruption and bureaucracy, and South African society ranks as one of the most unequal in the world. In 2019, the unemployment rate in South Africa was at 29% and even higher for the young generation.

“We are not dependent on our mineral resources; our sustainability depends on how we can unlock value from our human capital.”
– Riedwaan (Rudi) Kimmie, CEO of TSIBA Business School

So, what if there was something much more valuable than diamonds to help the country heal and thrive?

Entering TSIBA

TSIBA is a social enterprise uncovering the gem of education to young adults. Its vision is to transform the status quo of business education through a values-based approach to teaching and learning in a changing world. It focuses on developing the personal potential of each student and creating a supportive learning environment. Education at TSIBA is based on the principles of social empathy and manifests in “Paying-it-Forward.”

TSIBA in Numbers

In 2019, TSIBA had 405 registered students (55% male, 45% female). 94% of the students are between 19 and 24 years old. Since 2004, the TSIBA Business School has awarded over 5,000 annual tuition fee scholarships. It has a post-graduate employment rate of over 90%.

Students work on community projects and learn not only about business development but also about leadership and personal development, self-discovery, and self-mastery. Supported by a scholarship, students only have to pay as much as they can afford. This not only removes university entrance barriers; “Paying-it-Forward” also means that students take their expertise back to their communities. The outcome? Since TSIBA’s opening in 2004, 90% of all graduates directly entered employment.

“We want to create a South Africa that is sustainable. We want to create a South Africa that gives hope to the world." – Cebisa Malukwana Erol Gurian

"…what does this South Africa look like? It’s a South Africa that is embedded in democracy. It’s a South Africa that takes responsibility to hold its leaders accountable with a populace that is voting responsibly. It is corporations that are making money in a responsible manner.”

TSIBA alumni Cebisa Malukwana is passionate about education. He graduated in 2009 and is now working as an account and business development manager at one of South Africa’s biggest insurance companies. His roots are in the Eastern Cape, where he had to walk miles to attend school. Besides political and structural issues, infrastructural obstacles like this have shaped his opinion: “We have the responsibility to make sure that whoever wants to get education is able to get education.”

Aware that education can create a basis for sustainable development, TSIBA invests in ambitious, purpose-driven people like Cebisa and emerging businesses who want to take South Africa forward.

How it Works

Education at TSIBA follows a unique, holistic approach and has three entities: the Business School, the Ignition Academy, and the TSIBA Education Trust.

The TSIBA Business School is an accredited higher education institution offering undergraduate and postgraduate business qualifications. This is supported by tuition scholarships where students only have to pay what they can afford. With Covid-19, TSIBA removed all fees to students to help support them during these challenging times. No fees are payable for students whose household income is less than 350,000 South African Rand per annum.

TSIBA Ignition Academy is a for-profit development academy that specializes in vocational training and business development. The Academy offers high-quality and customizable solutions to enhance business skills, close skills gaps, and encourage professional development.

With the goal of securing long-term financial sustainability, the TSIBA Education Trust was set up in 2007. It ensures that the TSIBA business degree program remains inclusive and accessible to ambitious young students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to study for a business qualification at the tertiary level. All beneficiaries fall within the B-BBEE (Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment) category, an initiative launched by the South African government addressing inequality, tackling each of the five elements of the Codes of Good Practice: Ownership, Management Control, Skills Development, Enterprise Development, and Socio-Economic Development.

The Benefits of Private Universities

Although private schools are usually presumed to be elitist – in the case of TSIBA, a private university model makes a lot of sense. In South Africa, being a state university comes with a lot of bureaucratic obstacles.

E-SDG goals-icons-individual-cmyk-04

SDG 4: Quality Education

SDG 4 is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It covers not only early childhood, primary, secondary, and tertiary education as well as technical, vocational, and adult education, but also skills for employment, literacy, and numeracy. It supports education facilities and learning environments, scholarships and the education of teachers, but also, in a broader sense, equity, sustainable development, and global citizenship.

“Smaller private universities are more agile and they have more freedom to respond to the challenges that the country is facing.” According to Riedwaan (Rudi) Kimmie, CEO of the TSIBA Business School, public school courses are very academic and barely provide impact value and are therefore not aligned with what the economy needs. Moreover, the public sector lacks strategic direction on how to use the knowledge of universities to tackle the country’s challenges: “I don’t think there is a coherent view from the public universities on how to tackle some of the enduring challenges facing societies – for example, the challenges of economic growth, job creation, the challenges of crime, and the challenges of fixing the ecological environment.”

Rudi holds a PhD in Leadership Studies and became dean of TSIBA in August 2019 and then CEO in May 2020. Prior to that, he had gained more than 20 years of experience at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in diverse roles ranging from lecturer and strategic projects coordinator to Operations Manager for the university’s foundation. Last year, he also became part of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network.

“If 56 million people all have to make one small contribution, there will be an exponential growing change solving the problems of this country.”
Rudi Kimmie

Before switching to the academic sector, Rudi worked in the corporate world. With expertise in both sectors, he now focuses on fostering partnerships, locally and internationally, between academia and business.

“All of our students reflect on who they are. They reflect on the pain, some of the challenges they experienced in society, and some of the challenges they are facing with themselves,” Rudi explains.

Responsible Leader Riedwaan (Rudi) Kimmie at the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Forum Johannesburg. Erol Gurian

With this unique business model, TSIBA is not only an inspiring example of how to tackle SDG 4; it also serves as a role model for the mindset of Responsible Leadership. By living these values and inspiring young and ambitious people to pass them on, the university, its staff and its students work towards social change. By increasing accessibility to education, one of the most valuable goods, and constantly adapting it to national and global challenges, TSIBA shapes and cuts the true gems of South Africa.

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