Social investment trends

Tracey Henry size 2

Tracey Henry – CEO, Tshikululu Social Investments

The past 18 months has accentuated the important role of business in society. The business sector, and social investors more broadly, have been able to significantly leverage its resources in response to the health and humanitarian crisis brought on by Covid-19. Many lessons have been learnt and if we harness the power of the collective, we will continue to contribute towards a more equitable and prosperous South Africa.


Out of necessity and acknowledging the devastaing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and, more recently, the winter lootings in KwaZulu – Natal and Gauteng, many funders stepped forward to support humanitarian relief efforts, an area of funding that has generally received less investments than other sectors. A lot of this support was coordinated among funders to ensure scale. For many years, humanitarian and, in particular, food relief efforts have not been high on the funding priority list. But increasingly, with growing unemployment, scarce resources and poverty, pathways to provide sustainable livelihoods will be an important issue for organisations providing early childhood development programmes, school-based interventions and care for the vulnerable and elderly. A holistic approach, including food security, is likely to continue for years to come.

The past year has also highlighted the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide in our country. Nine in 100, 000 women are murdered in South Africa each year (global average = 2) and 138 in 100, 000 women are raped in South Africa each year, the worst statistics in the world. The numbers are alarming but don’t reflect the actual prevalence in our society and the devasting impact this has on families and the livelihoods of women. A lot
more needs to be done to stem this tide by supporting education and care programmes as well as system -wide reform, including the apprehension and conviction of perpetrators.

Many social investors who traditionally have not invested in health initiatives stepped forward during the past year to support national initiatives focused on strengthening the health system. Investments were made to provide PPE to schools and care centres, strengthening our laboratory testing capacity, funding initiatives to scale locally produced ventilators and behavioral change campaigns focused awareness of Covid-19 and steps to reduce the spread. Beyond the financial contributions, business has provided in-kind support, be it human capital or logistical support. More recently, business has also provided support for initiatives focused on the rollout of vaccines and vaccine hesitancy. This will remain a national priority as we work to reduce the prevalence of Covid-19 in communities and the impact thereof on lives and livelihoods. The relationship between comorbidities and Covid-19 has been highlighted during the past year and it will be important for social investors to support primary health care initiatives such as TB adherence programmes, which remains one of the leading underlying natural causes of death in SA, and awareness programmes related to lifestyle diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

The pandemic has also had a profound impact on the schooling system. Not only has this resulted in lost schooling days but also 45% of children receive their main meal at school feeding programmes and so schooling days lost have not only impacted curriculum coverage but child hunger and nutrition as well. The pandemic has also impacted the rollout of interventions focused on improving the education system and learner outcomes. These initiatives remain as crucial as they were before the pandemic. We need to ensure that the gains made over the past years are not lost and so it will be important that social investors continue to support initiatives focused on the educational backlog as well as quality of education.

It is not possible for any social investor to respond to every need in our society. What has been important during the past year, and will continue to be in years to come, is for each investor to be deliberate about their focus, to play to their strengths and to leverage their resources, be it financial, human capital, logistics or systems. Collaboration has also been an asset during the past year, as social investors came together in ways, we have not witnessed in recent time to share insights and avoid duplication of effort. With limited resources but growing social and development needs, this coming together of investors needs to be encouraged as we collectively work on the long road to recovery.

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