SAP Social Sabbatical: Igniting Opportunity for Cape Town’s Youth

This is part four in a series highlighting the SAP Social Sabbatical for global engagement in Cape Town, South Africa, which focused on bridging the digital and education divide in the city’s most underserved communities.

South Africa is home to some of the world’s best universities, but the average young South African likely won’t step foot on any of the country’s prestigious campuses. The legacy of apartheid has perpetuated an economic and education system inaccessible to the vast majority of youth. According to the Public Council of Higher Education in South Africa, only 16 percent of black South Africans go to university — although the country is 80 percent black. Access to tertiary education has emerged as a common issue of discourse in South Africa’s political and social landscape as students across the country protest rising tuition costs and unequal access.

In an economy where quality education is necessary for employment, yet unaffordable to most students, the country is facing a gap in skilled labor. This education crisis has fueled a dangerous level of youth unemployment in South Africa; the World Economic Forum ranked the country with the third highest unemployment rate in the world for people between the ages of 15 to 24.

Recognizing this enormous gap in education access, TSiBA, a unique, private, nonprofit business school, was founded in 2004 to enable talented students from underserved communities to become active participants in the South African economy. TSiBA’s mission is to provide full scholarships and academic programs at the tertiary level to talented students who would not otherwise have the resources to continue their education. Since opening its doors 12 years ago to a small group of talented students on a single campus in Cape Town, TSiBA has grown its academic offering to two campuses, four qualifications, and to nearly 500 registered students.

“What makes TSiBA unique is that the curriculum not only builds students’ knowledge, but important workforce skills as well,” says Crispian Tan of SAP. “TSiBA cultivates an attitude of leadership and entrepreneurship, making sure students are prepared for the working world. Students leave here with a competitive edge.”

Jose Ramos from SAP Canada presents TSiBA’s CEO Adri Marais with the team’s financial findings and recommendations.

Crispian was part of a three-person team providing pro bono assistance to TSiBA for one month as part of SAP’s Social Sabbatical for Global Engagement. The three-person team was tasked with developing a new business and sustainability strategy for the organization, which is currently at a crossroads. While the school has achieved much success in the community over the past 12 years, growing overhead costs and limited donor funding threaten plans to grow and expand in the future.

“Over the past month, me and my teammates have worked to listen to the needs of the TSiBA team and their key stakeholders and translate that into a plan for the future,” said Jose Ramos from SAP Canada. The team combined their business expertise from SAP with the insights they gathered through research and interviews to assess the organization’s current business model, evaluate its scalability and sustainability, and make recommendations for improvements.

Jennifer Hauck (right) from SAP Waldorf presents Adri Marais, CEO of TSiBA with a new branding and marketing strategy for TSiBA.

“What I have realized over the past month is that while SAP and TSiBA are very different organizations, both have a vision of making the world run better and improving people’s lives,” said Crispian. “And both have to make the same business considerations to meet this vision… answering questions like how can we recruit, retain, and motivate our employees? Are our operations efficient? How can we ensure sustainability in the long run?”

“All of us came to this experience with different skills sets that allowed us all to learn something from one another,” said Crispian. “There were times that required a lot of patience, but at the end of the day we were able to adjust our styles to really work well together and, I think, contribute something special to TSiBA.”

The TSiBA model bridges the education divide in Cape Town by providing young people from poor communities with the opportunity to transcend their social circumstances through transformative education. In a context of enduring poverty and inequality, ensuring the success and scalability of institutions like TSiBA is critical to building an inclusive workforce for the future.

“TSiBA’s tagline is igniting opportunity, but really what I have seen during my time here is that TSiBA ignites personal discovery,” says Jose. “TSiBA opens up doors for students to begin seeing the world and their own futures differently.”