Transcript of Opening Address by Maurice Radebe
October 9, 2022

Thank you very much, Bheki. I just want to show my sign of respect as you are all very important people, so I will take my hat off. It is such a pleasure to be here, and I feel very honored and humbled by the work you are doing here, particularly because in my youth, I also was in the nonprofit sector. For three years, I worked for an organisation called World Vision and did a lot of community development work, traveled to other countries, and to most parts of South Africa, going to the poorest of the poor and to rural areas. So, I am going to give you a round of applause because I really admire what you are doing.


I would also like to acknowledge Mama Graca Machel, who I understand, is going to receive the Lifetime Achievement African Philanthropy award 2022, for the wonderful work that she is doing. You know, she is a mother of two nations, Mozambique and South Africa, and so she truly deserves this kind of award and love. Let us give her a round of applause. She will be receiving it in the evening during the dinner, so please, make sure you come for that dinner. They will give you more details about how that is going to work later.


So let me start. Habari, Sanibonani, Molweni, Good morning, Goeie More, can I go on? Le kae, Abusheni, Thobela. I am just showing you how many African languages I can speak. I’m getting there. Let me just say, thank you, Professor Moyo, it is a privilege working with you. I will speak a little bit like an elderly person, it is a privilege to have worked with a young person who is full of energy and passion and is committed to this continent. I have a right to say that because I have seen him in action, and his passion is so contagious. That is why I am here and spend an inordinate amount of time supporting this.


My name is Maurice Radebe, and I am the Head of the Wits Business School. It is absolutely an honor and a privilege to be here and to welcome you to this exciting conference. This is not the first time I have been to this conference, and I have seen some familiar faces of our partners. I was part of this even during COVID-19 times when we were all online. I have always been part of this conference because it is a highlight in the calendar or for the business school.


COVID came and by the way, the virus is still around, let us not forget about that. There has never been a pandemic that ever left this world. The virus does not leave, we just need to learn how to manage it. You can talk about HIV, which is also still around. The virus is still around, we need to manage it. So, we cannot talk about post-COVID either. We are talking about a new normal. I think this conference captures it in its theme of ‘systems change in philanthropic practice’. It really shows us that systems change, the reason why we currently have a hybrid conference, and let me welcome all the online delegates that I hear, it is a systemic change that has happened in the world. In South Africa, it was March 2020 when we were locked down and the whole systemic change happened. We worked from home, we worked from anywhere. Therefore, it is always important that even in this philanthropic agenda that we do things in a systemic way, or we will not be able to defeat poverty, unemployment, inequality, ignorance, diseases, and wars in our continent.


One of the leading people was passionate about eradicating poverty, and I use this expression that I like, and I believe that it is possible. He said, ‘One day, maybe in our lifetime, maybe not in our lifetime, but one day, we will be able to lock poverty in the museum’, do you believe that? You have to believe it in order to do the kind of work that you are doing. It means one day; we will be able to eliminate poverty to such an extent that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will not have a conception of what you mean when you talk to them about poverty. They have to go to the museum to see it. Just like now, I have never seen dinosaurs and I could go to a museum to see them, but they were here. So, you have to believe that we can defeat it. The kind of work that you are doing in philanthropy is part of the contribution to defeating poverty because the scourge of poverty in our continent persists, it is very deep and it is generational, which is why we cannot continue to condemn future generations in this kind of a system. Therefore, we have to adopt a systemic approach and a systemic change.


I really applaud you again, I like applauding good things, for choosing a theme of this nature. I would like to really appreciate the work you are doing as delegates. The discussions you had yesterday during the academic conference, included theory papers that were delivered that from a theoretical perspective look at; the nature of poverty, the nature of philanthropy, how philanthropy can play a role in this world, how social investment can play a role in defeating poverty, and also, crises in that happen in our continent.


Again, I have also been fortunate in my life to have played the role of Chief Corporate Social Investment Officer, that is actually how my career evolved. It was amazing because it started in the nonprofit sector, and I was working for an organisation that obviously looked for funding from companies and multinationals. One of the big organisations in the energy industry was looking for someone who was going to help them with their corporate social investment, and they were looking for a young officer. That is how I entered the energy industry, and so yes, I have been on both sides of the fence. I have been on the grant-requesting side of the table, and also the grant-making side of the table. I know both sides of this, and both of us need each other.


This is why I like CAPSI. It joins philanthropy and social investment, and it is important to get both sides. I am particularly pleased with CAPSI, which is the Center on African Philanthropy and Social Investment. It is one of our centers of excellence here at Wits Business School, that has us apart. We are the only school in Africa to offer formal academic programmes and executive education courses in the field of African philanthropy and social investment. I remember when I was in your role, there actually was no formal programme for it, and so I think it is important for us to popularise it, making sure that we advertise it and tell as many people as possible about it. That way we can raise the capacity of practitioners in all fields, whether they are in the private sector, in the NGO world, in community organising, or in the public sector and government because all of us need to be equipped with skills and talents to be able to do this amazing and important work.


We support CAPSI in particular because, since 2017, it has been an international hub of knowledge, record-keeping, and research into philanthropy. What it means for us as Africans, not as it is understood by the Western world, is its role in building a fair and sustainable equitable future for all Africans. Now I can go on and on about aid in our continent, how it has created dependency syndrome, emasculated us, and how it is sometimes used with these reciprocal deals that are put in place in the name of aid when the money actually revolves back into Europe. In my space, the energy space, I am very passionate about really destroying those kinds of mindsets. Particularly, I use the word because I have been in energy, which also involves the extractive industry where you go out, dig a hole, and get out gas, oil, or minerals. The whole philosophy of the Western world has been, and I use these words quite regularly for those who have heard me speak because I want to impress this in everybody’s mind who is doing it, particularly in the business world. This whole supply chain system is based on the principle of ‘Pit to Port’. A pit is a hole, you find whatever you want to find, whether it is oil, gas, minerals, gold, or diamonds, and the supply chain you make is rolled to the port. This means you need to take that mineral either to the seaport, or the airport, and it leaves our continent. The same applies to a lot of aid that is higher up.


I have been part of many aid organisations that are globally based. I am a critic now, but I do want to make this point, where technical assistance is offered, but the only people you can use as consultants are those that come from the country that has given you the aid. We cannot go on like that. We need to refuse and raise our own technical assistance, capacity, and excellence, to be able to deliver philanthropy ourselves as Africans. Do you agree with me? That is what we need to do. I am off the script now, but I get very passionate about this. I really want to make sure that some of you, and I can say you are the next generation of leadership in this space, need to have the passion that what we do, we do it ourselves as Africans, for ourselves, in our African way, and in the way we think is best for Africa.


CAPSI is an embodiment of the mission statement of the Wits Business School. An embodiment of the business school in the sense that; what we want to deliver as a business school is a young leader who is ethical, competent, agile, and has a passion for being a force for positive good in our country, in our continent, and throughout the world. Why ethical? Our continent is riddled with unethical leaders. Someone said that Africa is not poor, it just has poor leaders, and corrupt leaders – let us call it out! I am praying and wishing that they be arrested and be in orange overalls as soon as possible so that we send a message that as a leader, you need to be ethical.


Competent. There are times when aid does not reach the people it needs to reach because of incompetent leaders. I wish for you to have a sense of wanting to be an excellent and competent leader so that you can execute and deliver efficiently, fast, and in agile ways to the marginalised and the poor of this continent. Many supply chain and logistics and food programs, whether the United Nations or AU, or all those other programmes need excellent leaders. That is you and me, and that is why I have spent the latter part of my life focusing on developing ethical, competent, and agile leaders.


The world is changing so fast that if you are not agile in the nonprofit sector, you have to be nimble and fast, be able to respond with lightning speed when there is a crisis and be able to make decisions with very limited information. Yesterday was sitting with one guy who said, ‘What is leadership really about, do we train people to make decisions?’ In my role as the leader of the school, the quality of the school will be determined by the quality of my decisions, and let me tell you, the quality of your life will also be determined by the quality of your decisions. So, agility in making decisions is critical. Therefore, we want positive change. We do not want to train young MBAs who are focused only on; I want to finish here, and I am going to get a big salary, a big car, a corner office, and stay in a big house. I tell our young students to change that mindset. There will always be somebody driving a better car, a better title, and a better salary than yours. So, if you chase that, you enter a rat race. The sad part is that even if you were in that rat race, you remain a rat, and you cannot afford to reduce yourself to a rat.


I want you to communicate this message to our younger people because you are closer to them.

That is why we support CAPSI, we do it to empower education, relevant research, and impactful public discourse like this one. Everything that we do is based on the principles of critical thinking, innovation, and sustainability. I do not need to remind you that one of the themes of this conference is sustainability. There has never been any time in this world that we face an existential threat as mankind, and climate change is one of those existing existential threats to all of us. I used to spend a lot of time traveling around the world, you know when you are in a multinational company the way I used to be, I would spend a lot of time outside this country. I used to see only floods in India during the monsoon rains, and I thought they would never come to South Africa. But we were shocked in KZN when we saw those floods. Some of you know that there is a massive refinery in Durban called SAPREF. Those floods flooded the refinery to the roof, and you know that if water does get into your car’s engine, it destroys it. I am passionate about this thing, so Professor Moyo invited me to come to speak about it. The whole refinery is dead now and will cost billions of Rands to fix, all because of floods. We have never seen that before. So let us stop the debate about whether science is right or not and get on with the work of sustainability.


CAPSI is also aligned with our vision and mission. We share a passion for our continent, and a sense of agency to find solutions to issues that threaten our sustainability. This conference has come at a very opportune time in our history as we grapple with life after COVID-19, as the world struggles with understanding massive changes of climate change, and the war that has just come out of the blue and had a huge impact in terms of food shortages, supply chain disruptions, in Ukraine and Russia. The impact is amazing. Some of us who are involved in business can feel it. Things you were able to order and deliver on time are not there, you go to the shelves of the stores, and nothing is there – food security is threatened. So, we are grappling with all these changes but let us continue with our work of research education.


This conference is where we grapple with these questions. It brings together leading academics in the sector, and today’s programme is focused on technology and young people. I have already made a lot of my views on young people, technology, and the transformation of our continent. I wish to thank you Prof. Moyo and our partners for collaborating with us as WBS we are giving you full support. I personally, as the head of the school, have my full support. Let me thank and pay tribute to our partners Trust Africa, Southern Africa Trust, Higher Life Foundation, African Philanthropy Forum, African Philanthropy Network, and the East Africa Philanthropy Network, let us give them a round of applause.


Together as academics, experts, thought leaders, and practitioners, we can make a profound difference in the sustainable growth and development of our continent. Asante sana. Thank you. Ngiyabonga. Enkosi.