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By Vukosi Maluleke

Digital Journalist

Social innovators win big at SAB Foundation Awards

The SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards took place on Thursday in Johannesburg.

“You get a prize, everybody gets a prize,” – was the buzz phrase at the recent South African Breweries (SAB) Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards.

Held on Thursday at the Inanda Polo Club in Sandton, Johannesburg, the two-fold awards celebrate the remarkable strides made by entrepreneurs in social innovations geared towards addressing socio-economic and environmental challenges in a scalable and financially sustainable way.

Meanwhile, the Disability Empowerment Awards acknowledge social endeavours either run by persons living with disabilities or focused on providing solutions to enhance disability access and promote equality and inclusion.

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‘Obsessed with solutions’

During his opening remarks, SAB Foundation Chairperson Moss Ngoasheng encouraged entrepreneurs to remain passionate about solving social problems.

“The key is to celebrate the fact that ordinary South Africans are obsessed with solving social problems,” he said.

Urging the finalists to keep going, he said winning an award was only the beginning.

“We hope the journey of solving the problems we’re faced with starts now,” said Ngoasheng.

Oprah Winfrey’s classic expression of generosity was hailed supreme at the event.

‘Win speaks volumes’

Social Innovation Award third place winner, Green Arch Aquaphonics Micro-Franchise bagged R850 000 to drive their sustainable agricultural innovations forward.

Speaking to The Citizen, founder and entrepreneur Luvo Gugwana said the achievement speaks volumes.

“Winning that award really validates that we’re in the right direction, it speaks volumes that there are people who acknowledge the social impact we have in improving lives,” said Gugwana.

He also said the achievement was a significant milestone for his business.

“It [the award] means it’s the right time for the business to upscale,” Gugwana said.

“The funds will be very [useful] in helping us grow, improve our infrastructure, grow our business, and improve our systems and deliveries,” he told The Citizen.

Gugwana looked forward to receiving mentorship and support, saying it’d elevate his organisation.

“To leverage on the technical support and mentorship programmes, that’ll definitely assist in improving our model and service delivery,” he explained.

Luvo Gugwana, founder of Green Arch Aquaponics Micro-Franchise – third place SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award winner. Image: SAB Foundation

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Win means validation

Job-Abled Recruitment Platform, a digital job-seeking solution for people living with disabilities, emerged as this year’s second-place Disability Empowerment Award winner – securing a R950 000 grant.

Co-founder Christiaan van Den Berg told The Citizen that winning the award validated their organisation’s work.

“The award and the funds that come with it speak to the validation of the efforts we’re making to try and change the lives of people with disabilities and connect them with job opportunities,” he said.

When it comes to the cash prize, Van Den Berg said the funds would go towards expanding the work of the organisation.

“We’re going to utilise the funds to try to scale the impact that we’re making – hopefully bulking up our human resources to take the efforts we’ve already set the baseline for, to impact more lives,” he told The Citizen.

Christiaan van Den Berg and Marius Erasmus, co-founders of Job-Abled Recruitment Platform – second place winner of the SAB Foundation Disability Empowerment Award. Image: SAB Foundation.

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Beyond cash prizes

The rewards extend beyond the glamorous awards ceremony and generous grant funding – but include a year of coaching, business training and technical support to set the social innovators up for sustainable entrepreneurial success.

SAB Foundation Executive Director Bridgit Evans said the foundation provides various support phases to ensure that the innovations are commercialised.

“We start working with individuals at a university level, leading to an award or grant stage,” she said.

Evans also said there had been significant changes in the entrepreneurial landscape in the last 13 years, adding that this year’s finalist bore testament to the sector’s growth.

‘A culture of entrepreneurship’

At the awards ceremony, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Buti Manamela said social innovation was key to addressing societal needs and developing grassroots solutions.

“Very crucial is the role of social innovation in empowering communities with the urgency to take charge of their own lives,” he said.

Gauteng MEC of Economic Development Tasneem Motara echoed, adding that acknowledging the efforts of individuals and organisations in economic development had a ripple effect.

“By celebrating excellence, perseverance and innovation, we foster a culture of entrepreneurship and encourage economic growth,” said Motara.

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Disability Award winners

  1. Silicone Prosthetic Liner for Amputees – R1.3 million
  2. Job-Abled Recruitment Platform – R950 000.
  3. Abled2Travel AI Assisted Travel App and Deaftouch Accessible Communications Solutions – R650 000 each.

Social Innovation Award winners

  1. Re-purpose – R1.3 million.
  2. Easy Squeezy – R950 000.
  3. Green Arch Aquaponics Micro-Franchise – R 850 000.

Development Award winners

  1. Nick and Nicol’s Vegan Leather Designs and Sonke Refill Stations – R600 000 each.
  2. Liquid Gold Africa and Aqua Green Agricultural Incubation Model – R500 000 each.
  3. Koola Capital SMME Financing and Xhuma Neo Banking App – R 500 000 each.

Audience Choice Award winners

Nick and Nichol’s Vegan Leather Designs won the audience choice award worth R150 000.

Seed grant recipients

*Awarded R300 000 each.

  • Wafunda Income Share Agreements
  • Ball Talent
  • Anisptera Waste Analytics using AI

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