Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|October 26, 2022|5 Minutes|In Opinion


Looking  for lions among the entrepreneurs of the bush.

Just another day in the African bush: a foundation supported by a son of the oil rich Getty dynasty helping hundreds of people, living a stone’s throw from the lap of luxury, escape poverty. 

It is a familiar sight around many of the luxury game lodges of Africa; five-star resorts with four-wheel drive cars coming in and out, ringed by poverty.

South Africa has some of the finest game resorts in the world, yet most of the youngsters who live in small communities on their doorstep will not find a job when they leave school.

The Africa Foundation  – underwritten by the Ambient Lodge and Travel Group – is trying to use entrepreneurship to help people work their way out of poverty. At least a tenth of its funds come from Tara Getty the grandson of the late US oil tycoon John Paul Getty – the patriarch and once the richest man on earth.

The idea is to harness the entrepreneur’s hustle to help people create their own income. The target is to move 50 percent of people above the poverty line and 30 percent above the minimum wage.

Andrew Venter, the CEO of Africa Foundation with a Ph.D. in economics and social development, has spent 30 years working with communities on the doorstep of game lodges.

“When I was working in the Kruger National Park 30 years ago, people wanted to be a policeman, a teacher, or a nurse; now they want to have a business,” he says.

The Africa Foundation enlisted the help of a non-profit social enterprise Harambee to select those they call hustlepreneurs.

More than 5,000 people applied and the organisers took the Dragon’s Den approach to sift through the hopefuls.

“We wanted to know:  do you have the grit or are you doing this to get a job? Do you have

It could be buying and selling sweets, we were not fussed about that, we wanted to see that entrepreneurial spirit,” says Venter.

In South Africa alone, 676 aspiring entrepreneurs made the cut and subjected themselves to coaching, including cash book analysis and follow up calls.

“People get lonely, they lose hope and get despondent. The magic of a phone call in the morning can do a lot,” says Venter.

“We had one individual who kept complaining they never had any money. The group chatted with them and noticed every time they arrived they had a Red Bull in their hand. We worked out that this person drank six a day – we advised the reason you don’t have money is that you are drinking it!”

Ninety percent of those chosen stuck to the course, according to Venter,  and make money from everything from spaza shops to photography and making school uniforms.

The foundation plans to spend up to $3 million a year on similar schemes in Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, and  Kenya.

A mere drop in the ocean?

“One hundred percent it is,” says Venter,” If we could put in tenfold we would. If we don’t invest in the 70 percent of school leavers who can’t find jobs, there is no future. How do we build vibrant and small? Getting it right is transformative.”

How difficult will it be to carry out in South Africa with corruption likely to be an election issue when the country goes to the polls in May 2024?

“It is tough and I think in learning lessons we are very lucky to be surrounded by good thinkers…. It is not just throwing money at it,” says Venter.

“Systemic corruption we have here means there is just a line-up of sharks saying here is another opportunity to make money. Firstly, we have a general distaste for it. We deal with it with transparency.”

Again, a drop in the ocean, maybe, but at the very least it is an outfit that is doing something about poverty – through  the power of the entrepreneur.