Surviving and Thriving in Eswatini

“My name is Smile. Pronounced Smee-lay,” she said. “You will never forget me because it’s written like smile in English.”

Smile was right. I’ve never forgotten her and I think about her a lot — especially on December 1, also known as World AIDS Day. Smile was beautiful. A then 13-year old student who lived in Mbabane, Eswatini. Formerly known as Swaziland, Eswatini is a small country in southern Africa. It is estimated that 28 percent of Eswatini citizens between the ages of 15 and 49 are living with HIV today. Thirty-seven million people in the world live with HIV. Twenty-six million of them live in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite global efforts to increase testing and treatment, Eswatini remains one of the highest concentrated HIV/AIDS populations in the world.

In 2013, I participated in SAP Social Sabbatical, a pro-bono volunteering program that fosters social impact by solving challenges for non-profit organizations and social enterprises. Our program lasted about five weeks, including weekends. On our last weekend, my colleagues and I were invited to travel to Eswatini to volunteer at a Youth Center with Young Heroes. Young Heroes empowers Swaziland’s most vulnerable youth through initiatives like education support, healthcare, and HIV education. My colleagues and I spent time meeting the joyful children of Mbabane. We played. We cooked. We sang. We listened. I do not know what Smile’s health status was or is today, but the staff at the Youth Center estimated that 10 to 15 percent of the children who come there each day were infected with HIV. Young Heroes, together with partners like SAP hopes to change that statistic.

“The key to an HIV/Aids-free generation, in addition to optimal treatment roll out, is the ability for grass roots organizations to effectively support communities where the HIV/AIDS pandemic is rampant,” says Sunil Geness, director of Government Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for SAP Africa. “Our partnership with the Young Heroes in a country with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS allows SAP to impact thousands of Swaziland’s orphans and vulnerable children through financial, medical, educational, and psychosocial support that is very much required.”

Focus and Partnership Lead to Impact

SAP has a strong track record of success in the support they deliver to the people of Eswatini.

“There are two primary reasons we’ve achieved impact in our efforts to help combat the HIV/AIDS crisis,” Alexandra van der Ploeg, head of CSR at SAP, shares. “First, we remain focused. We concentrate our support on Eswatini. Second, we have powerful partnerships with dedicated expertise in this area. Our partnerships with organizations like (RED) and The Global Fund as well as Young Heroes accelerate the impact that no single player can do by themselves.”

SAP’s partnership with (RED) and The Global Fund began in 2012. For the past six years, SAP CSR has contributed $6 million to high-impact grants though (RED) in Eswatini to support education, prevention, care, and treatment services. Due in part to this contribution, we are proud to share that 97 percent of mothers living with HIV can no longer transmit HIV to their unborn children or the kids they are breastfeeding. With continued partnership, funding, and focus, we could conceivably see an AIDS-free generation this decade.


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Follow along as the 2018 team from the SAP Social Sabbatical for executive engagement visits the progress in Eswatini on the ground.

Innovation with Purpose

The partnership between The Global Fund and SAP also leverages SAP technology to increase efficiency of the management of Global Fund grants. By employing the latest analytical technology, a software tool known as the grant management dashboard, SAP provides program managers in 26 implementing countries with a powerful tool to view the distribution of grants and monitor performance.

Beyond Eswatini, SAP continues to raise awareness for the crisis that exists in other parts of the world. This year, SAP supported the Life Ball in Vienna, Europe’s biggest HIV/AIDS charity. Funds raised have supported more than 170 projects worldwide. SAP contributed an audience voting app to the annual costume competition, built on SAP Cloud Platform. SAP also announced plans to produce a massive open online course (MOOC) on sexual health together with Life Ball Next Generation and Youth Against AIDS.

A Healthy, Inclusive World

People sometimes ask me, “Why does SAP support programs impacting HIV/AIDS?” To me, it’s simple. SAP’s purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives — not just some lives, not only the fortunate ones or the educated ones, but everyone. Because whether or not people are included today, everyone has the power to deliver the next big idea that could change the world, and SAP has the power to reach them.

Our strength lies in our culture and our ability to foster a healthy, inclusive future for all people through the “best” of what we have to offer the world — our technology, our global ecosystem, and certainly the heart and skills of our employees.

Jennifer Beason is head of Communications for Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP.

This article first appeared on the SAP News Center.