“Find your conviction in life – the thing you want to be remembered for; hold on to it and never let it go."
Reflecting on her life of never letting go of her conviction to solve the problems caused by climate change in Africa, Ms Vere Shaba – one of the top 100 businesswomen in Africa – shared this piece of advice with Stellenbosch University (SU) newcomer students last week. Shaba delivered a heartening message in her keynote address, “Driving social impact through social entrepreneurship", at SU's annual social impact morning on 10 February 2022. She encouraged newcomer students to the University to find their specific cause in life that will contribute to a better world.
This social impact morning, themed #ISEE, was hosted by Maties Community Services, the Division for Social Impact and the Centre for Student Communities in the Student Affairs Division to introduce new students from Stellenbosch and Tygerberg to SU's social impact commitment. The hybrid event included a virtual symposium with staff and students, followed by practical face-to-face activities.
The main focus was to let the newcomers “see" the University's commitment to social impact and that social impact is an institutional strategic priority. Students also “saw" the real-life social challenges linked to the government's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the strength of a network of stakeholders working together to solve social ills, said Ms Renee Hector-Kannemeyer, Deputy-director: Social Impact and head of Matie Community Services.
Shaba's 12-year career demonstrates how social impact can occur through social entrepreneurship. With perseverance, passion and commitment to making Africa a better place, she obtained a mechanical engineering qualification and then founded a multinational engineering consulting firm, Greendesign Africa, which brings green buildings, solar energy and green engineering to Africa.
Shaba's conviction started long before she actually launched her company. Her passion was triggered by the knowledge that Africa is the continent most impacted by high temperatures and climate change and has, on top of that, little green technology development. “And that's the reason why I ended up going into this space: knowing and understanding that simply by working with green buildings and green engineering, I can do my very small part in my lifetime."
Inspiring the new students to also do their part in life by solving social challenges, Shaba ensured students that “every single one of them can lean into all the existing opportunities to solve some of the greatest challenges that we have". “All it takes is finding your conviction, the problem you want to solve and the social impact you want to create and then decide how you are going to solve it," said Shaba, adding that “all of you have at least one thing that you will be able to solve during your time at Stellenbosch and even afterwards, as you can continue to make a difference on our continent."
Supporting the idea that every student should apply their talents, skills and knowledge to benefit society, Hector-Kannemeyer explained that the University has a responsibility of “sending engaged students and engaged graduates into the world to solve complex real-life world challenges".
“Universities have a social responsibility to use their talents to benefit those in society that are not as privileged as we are and to develop well-rounded thought-leaders who have integrated what they have learned and experienced back into society.
Ending her address, Shaba reiterated: “So my closing question is: 'What is the social impact that you individually want to be remembered for?' Hopefully, this question will encourage you to continue to make a social impact as much as you possibly can. And I did mine through social entrepreneurship. As the years continue to unfold for you, you will see how you can make a social impact that will change the continent as a student from an African university," said Shaba.
Ms Precious Nhamo, chair of the portfolio for Social Impact and Development on the Students' Representative Council (SRC), also informed newcomers that the SRC has prioritised social impact and encouraged students to become involved. “As we start our journey at SU, let us not only see with our eyes but also see with our hearts and see where there is a need and how we can contribute. It is our duty to give back to our society. Social responsibility should be at the heart of humanity," she said.
The morning concluded with all the newcomers to the Stellenbosch and Tygerberg campuses participating in various social impact initiatives with the relevant community partner. These initiatives ranged from making eco-bricks, taking care of neglected dogs at an animal shelter and planting spekbome to cleaning the Strand beach and preparing sandwiches for the night shelter and surrounding communities.
Photographers: Stefan Els, Chevaan Peters en Sandra Mulder