‘Social entrepreneurship could help put SDG progress back on track’ – Belgian queen during UP-hosted roundtable

Posted on March 27, 2023

While progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has stalled, social entrepreneurship could help put the SDGs back on track for 2030. This was one of the key points made during a seminar and roundtable on social entrepreneurship held recently at the University of Pretoria (UP), in which Queen Mathilde of Belgium participated and which was organised by the Flemish Universities and Colleges Council and the Delegation of Flanders in South Africa.

However, there is no time to waste and progress cannot be made without partnerships, collaboration and a mindset shift about economic growth, according to delegates who attended the roundtable, titled ‘Strengthening social entrepreneurship as a model for change and the corresponding role of universities’.

“The SDGs need to be included in all decisions so that no one is left behind,” said Queen Mathilde in her opening remarks. “Social entrepreneurship is one of the tools to leave no one behind, but we need to work fast and partnerships are of the essence.”

Queen Mathilde and King Philippe of Belgium were in South Africa for their first state visit to the country, and the social entrepreneurship seminar and roundtable at UP was the first official event that the queen attended. Her participation comes on the back of almost a decade of cooperation between South Africa and Belgium on social entrepreneurship and the social and solidarity economy.

The SDGs are rightly considered as a “road map to a better world”, said Professor Willem Fourie, Head of the SDG Hub at UP. “Unfortunately, progress towards achieving the SDGs had stalled.” He added that while the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to this, things had not been on track prior to the pandemic. Aggravating factors included interstate conflict and the argument that unlimited economic growth was possible with limited resources.

“Social entrepreneurship offers a model of the type of business we need to achieve the SDGs,” Prof Fourie said. “What is needed is a mindset shift about growth, leadership, how to engage society and what a customer is – not a resource to be exploited, but a partner. Profit and social impact can be integrated. It is possible to have successful entities within planetary boundaries and within community boundaries.”

Dr Kerryn Krige of the London School of Economics noted that social entrepreneurs are deeply embedded and trusted in their communities, and are involved in activities ranging from caring for the elderly to growing and distributing food and doing advocacy work.

The Deputy-Minister of Trade and Industry and Economic Development, Nomalungelo Gina, said South Africa’s social entrepreneurship policy was being finalised and is based on the principles of solidarity, reciprocity and social cohesion, among others.

Several South African social entrepreneurs also took part in the roundtable.

“Trust and care are at the centre of what we do,” said Thobile Chittenden, community builder and CEO of Makers Valley partnership, a Johannesburg-based social and creative enterprise. “Our name comes from the community and is an opportunity to reframe ourselves – it represents the spirit of creativity,” she said.

Rest Kanju, Director of Indalo Inclusive, which responds to the challenges of climate change, especially in rural areas of the Eastern Cape, said that the “spirit of ubuntu” runs through the work of social entrepreneurs, who are trusted people working on localised solutions in local contexts. Indalo Exclusive, for example, has found ways to filtrate water through macadamia nutshells.

Commenting on the role of universities in strengthening social entrepreneurship, Kanju said: “We are excited about the advancement of research. There is a need to take universities to rural areas.”


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